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Sanction Congress, Not One Member

By       Message Stephen Lendman       (Page 1 of 6 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Sanction Congress, Not One Member - by Stephen Lendman

The Constitution's Article I, Section 5, clause 2 authorizes the House of Representatives to discipline or "punish" its members for "disorderly Behavior," as well as for criminal, civil liability, or other misconduct issues. Ostensibly it's to protect the institutional integrity and reputation of the body, an impossible challenge given its longstanding record, notably over the past three decades, deserving far more than censure.

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Punishment may be by reprimand, censure, expulsion, and/or fines, monetary restitution, loss of seniority, and suspension or loss of certain privileges. In addition, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct may issue a formal Committee reproach by "Letter of Reproval" for misconduct not warranting full House action. It may also express disapproval by informal letters and/or direct communications with members.

In US history, five members were expelled, three during the Civil War for disloyalty to the Union. Others, however, resigned ahead of formal House action. More recently, on October 2, 1980, Rep. Michael J. Myers was removed after being convicted of bribery for political favors in the so-called ABSCAM FBI sting operation. On July 24, 2002, Rep. James Traficant, Jr. was also expelled after his 10-count conviction on charges of accepting favors, gifts and money in return for performing official beneficial acts for donors.

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Unlike "expel," the term "censure" doesn't appear in the Constitution, although it's also authorized under Article I, Section 5, clause 2 power to "punish...Members for disorderly Behavior." Most actions occurred in the 19th century, usually over issues of decorum, including insulting other members on the floor, committing violent acts against them, supporting recognition of the Confederacy, selling military academy appointments, or more recently for financial misconduct or sexual misbehavior with House pages.

On July 11, 1832, Rep. William Stanberry was the first member censured for insulting the House Speaker. Prior to December 2, 2010, Reps. Daniel Crane and Gerry Studds were both censured on July 20, 1983 for sexual misconduct with House pages.

Charles Bernard Rangel, Democrat Representative for New York's 15th Congressional District

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On December 2, the House voted 333 - 79 to censure Rangel (a 20-term member since January 1971) for ethics violations, its harshest penalty short of expulsion. 

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