After weeks of build-up, the impeachment trial of President Trump officially began today in the Senate. And while news coverage is heavily regulated inside the chamber, with major networks having to rely on limited footage from government cameras, there’s another way to watch: in person.
While members of the press are confined to roped-off pens, private citizens can request gallery passes through their senators online. According to the Office of the Sergeant at Arms, Senate offices have each been allotted a select number of tickets for about three dozen seats in the gallery. That doesn’t guarantee you a seat though–you’ll have to wait in line for a spot, and those lines can get pretty long. There are about three dozen seats set aside for the public, and if you do get in, you’ll only be able to stay for about thirty minutes, as seats will rotate regularly depending on the length of the line outside.
The guidelines for securing tickets vary from office to office. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland states on his website that his office will distribute up to five passes per person. In order to get them, you’ll have to give your name and show proof of residence in Maryland. Passes must be picked up in person at the Hart Senate Office Building, and then ticket-holders will re-enter through the Congressional Visitor’s Center. According to their representatives, Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland will also give out passes.
But what about residents of the District of Columbia, who don’t have senators? A representative from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office said they will be giving gallery passes out to constituents. (The office of Shadow Senator Paul Strauss says they have not been given tickets.)
Other Senators, like Rhode Island’s Jack Reed, will give out a smaller number of tickets. His office will only distribute three passes per day. Passes from some Senators’ offices expire at midnight on the day they’re picked up, while others can be used on different days. As on many other occasions, call your Senator’s office for specifics.
Pro tip: while the sessions will likely last from around 1 PM until 9PM, many Senate offices close between 5:30 and 6 PM. If you want to get passes for a given day, you’ll have to pick them up before the close of business.
This post has been updated with comment from Rep. Norton’s office.