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Expulsion is the most serious form of disciplinary action that can be taken against a Member of Congress.[1] The United States Constitution (Article I, Section 5, Clause 2) provides that "Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member." The processes for expulsion differ somewhat between the House of Representatives and the Senate.[2][clarification needed]

Censure, a less severe form of disciplinary action, is an official sanction of a member. It does not remove a member from office.

Process leading to expulsion

Presently, the disciplinary process begins when a resolution to expel or censure a Member is referred to the appropriate committee. In the House, this is the Committee on Ethics (House Ethics Committee); in the Senate, this is the Select Committee on Ethics (Senate Ethics Committee).

The committee may then ask other Representatives or Senators to come forward with complaints about the Member under consideration or may initiate an investigation into the Member's actions. Sometimes Members may refer a resolution calling for an investigation into a particular Member or matter that may lead to the recommendation of expulsion or censure.

Rule XI (Procedures of committees and unfinished business) of the Rules of the House of Representatives states that the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct can investigate allegations that a Member violated "any law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct applicable to the conduct of such Member ... in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities". The Senate Select Committee on Ethics has the equivalent jurisdiction. The committee may then report back to their whole chamber as to its findings and recommendations for further actions.

When an investigation is launched by either committee, an investigatory subcommittee will be formed. Once the investigatory subcommittee has collected evidence, talked to witnesses, and held an adjudicatory hearing, it will vote on whether the Member is found to have committed the specific actions and then will vote on recommendations. If expulsion is the recommendation then the subcommittee's report will be referred to the full House of Representatives or Senate where Members may vote to accept, reject, or alter the report's recommendation. Voting to expel requires the concurrence of two-thirds of the members. This is set out in Article 1, Section 5, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution.

Expulsions from Congress

See also: List of United States representatives expelled, censured, or reprimanded and List of United States senators expelled or censured

In the entire history of the United States Congress, 21 Members have been expelled: 15 from the Senate and six from the House of Representatives. Of these 21 members, 17 were expelled for supporting the Confederate States in 1861 and 1862. One member's expulsion, Senator William K. Sebastian of Arkansas, was posthumously reversed. The U.S. Constitution requires that vacancies in the House of Representatives be filled with a special election. Censure has been a much more common form of disciplinary action in Congress over the years, as it requires a much lower threshold of votes to impose.

Table key
N.V. No recorded vote
Posthumously reversed
Expelled members of Congress
Portrait Name Year Chamber Party State Reason Vote Ref.
William Blount 1797 Senate Democratic-Republican  Tennessee Treason and conspiracy to incite a rebellion of Creek and Cherokee to aid the British in conquering the Spanish territory of West Florida. 25—1 [3]
James M. Mason 1861 Senate Democratic  Virginia Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
Robert M. T. Hunter 1861 Senate Democratic  Virginia Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
Thomas L. Clingman 1861 Senate Democratic  North Carolina Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
Thomas Bragg 1861 Senate Democratic  North Carolina Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
James Chesnut Jr. 1861 Senate Democratic  South Carolina Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
Alfred O. P. Nicholson 1861 Senate Democratic  Tennessee Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
William K. Sebastian 1861 Senate Democratic  Arkansas Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
Charles B. Mitchel 1861 Senate Democratic  Arkansas Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
John Hemphill 1861 Senate Democratic  Texas Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
Louis Wigfall 1861 Senate Democratic  Texas Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—10 [4]
John C. Breckinridge 1861 Senate Democratic  Kentucky Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 36—0 [5]
Trusten Polk 1862 Senate Democratic  Missouri Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 36—0 [6]
Waldo P. Johnson 1862 Senate Democratic  Missouri Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 35—0 [6]
Jesse D. Bright 1862 Senate Democratic  Indiana Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 32—14 [7]
John Bullock Clark 1862 House Democratic  Missouri Supporting the Confederate rebellion. 94—45 [8]
John William Reid 1862 House Democratic  Missouri Supporting the Confederate rebellion. N.V. [8]
Henry Cornelius Burnett 1862 House Democratic  Kentucky Supporting the Confederate rebellion. N.V. [8]
Michael Myers 1980 House Democratic  Pennsylvania Conviction for bribery in connection with the Abscam scandal. 376—30 [8]
James Traficant 2002 House Democratic  Ohio Conviction for bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion. 420—1 [8]
George Santos 2023 House Republican  New York Findings of fraud and misuse of campaign funds by the House Ethics Committee. 311—114 [8]

Other initiations of actions to expel

There have been numerous other attempts to expel members of Congress. In many of those instances members under serious threat of expulsion resigned, including:

There were other instances in which investigations were brought, but the defendants were exonerated, expulsion was rejected, insufficient evidence was found, or the member's term expired:

See also

References

  1. ^ Brockell, Gillian (January 5, 2021). "The senators who were expelled after refusing to accept Lincoln's election". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  2. ^ Brown, Cynthia; Garvey, Todd (January 11, 2018). Expulsion of Members of Congress: Legal Authority and Historical Practice (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  3. ^ "U.S. Senate: Expulsion Case of William Blount of Tennessee (1797)". www.senate.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-26.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "U.S. Senate: Civil War Expulsion Cases (1861)". www.senate.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-26.
  5. ^ "U.S. Senate: Expulsion Case of John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky (1861)". www.senate.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-26.
  6. ^ a b "U.S. Senate: Civil War Expulsion Cases (1862)". www.senate.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-26.
  7. ^ "U.S. Senate: Expulsion Case of Jesse D. Bright of Indiana (1862)". www.senate.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-26.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "List of Individuals Expelled, Censured, or Reprimanded in the U.S. House of Representatives | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". history.house.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-26.
  9. ^ "Exit Mr. Lederer". The New York Times. May 3, 1981.
  10. ^ "4 Briefing on Expulsion and Censure". U.S. Senate. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  11. ^ "Burton Wheeler, former Senator for Montana". GovTrack.us. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
  12. ^ "Jamaal Bowman: Republicans seek Democrat's expulsion for pulling fire alarm". BBC. October 2, 2023.
  13. ^ "Rep. George Santos survives effort to expel him from the House. But he still faces an ethics report". AP News.
  14. ^ Pengelly, Martin (2023-12-01). "Republican George Santos expelled from Congress in bipartisan vote". US Politics. The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. ISSN 1756-3224. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 2023-12-01.
  15. ^ "Roll Call 691 - Bill Number: H. Res. 878". Office of the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. 1 December 2023. Retrieved 7 December 2023.

Further reading