“Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, and punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.”
-Article 1, section 5, clause 2
Most of us know how our Constitution laid out the branches and powers of our government. Article One established the legislative branch, we know as Congress.
Congress consists of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. It established Congress’ enumerated powers and their ability to pass laws. It defined the powers of the states.
It vested the office of the President and designated the implicit powers of his office. It further detailed the structure and responsibilities of the judicial branch and their authority to judge if laws were or were not constitutional. And it also set forth the process for each branch to remove members in violation of the ethics of their office.
We are aware of the impeachment process and recall when Bill Clinton was indicted for lying under oath and obstruction of justice. Although there was compelling evidence to convict Clinton, an over-quoted phrase from his grand jury trial questioning the meaning of the verbiage "is" enabled him to obfuscate the truth during impeachment. “It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If it means he is and never has been, that is not – that is one thing. If it means there is none, that 'is' a completely true statement". After weeks of Clinton’s parlor games, along with unrelenting media criticism for impeachment, a frustrated Senate failed to convict him with a two-thirds majority vote.
Despite the clear violations of law during the Clinton impeachment, it demonstrated the “power of the press” that mocked the entire process. The sheer mention of impeachment is an ugly word for a president. When the media failed to elect their favorite daughter, Hillary Clinton, they went after Donald Trump. There was three years of supermarket tabloid pomp and circumstance by the media before this grammar school bullying mercifully ended. It was poetic justice when the Robert Mueller report dealt a knockout blow to anti-Trump forces that had invested their hopes in finally impeaching him.
“This Russia thing is far from over. They’ll be talking about it until next Valentines day.” - Chris Christie
The progressive left has spent three years trying to impeach Trump yet they have members in their own House who have proven far less fit for governing. And nobody has suggested that any of them be removed from office. Under the provisions of the Constitution, members of Congress may have their services ended by action of the house of Congress in which they are considered unworthy of serving. They may be removed from office by expulsion, or be determined incompatible for public office by their body of Congress. For a member to be removed from office from the Senate or the House, it requires a formal vote on a resolution agreed to by two-thirds of the body of its members.
Over the decades, several forms of discipline have evolved in the House. The most severe type of punishment is expulsion, which is followed by censure, and finally reprimand. But these are not the only penalties which the House may levy on members.
In the 1960s, the Committee on Ethics was given the ability to issue a formal “Letter of Reproval.” The Ethics Committee may also register its disapproval of an action or continued actions unbefitting for an elected official. Members may also be fined, stripped of committee leadership positions, suspended, or deprived of assorted privileges.
"Last year we said, 'Things can't go on like this', and they didn't, they got worse." -Will Rogers
Traditionally expulsion has been reserved to punish the most culpable conduct or crimes such as suspected treason against the government. It was used for the first time during the Civil War when three individuals were expelled from the House: Missourians John Clark and John Reid, and Henry Burnett from Kentucky who joined the Confederacy to fight in the Civil War against the U.S. Two members accused of selling appointments to U.S. military academies following the Civil War, North Carolina’s John DeWeese, and South Carolina’s Benjamin Whittemore, resigned their seats before the House voted to expel them. The House still censured both men, even after their resignations.
In 1872, George Train and Thomas Durant, of the Union Pacific Rail Road, formed a phony company to protect shareholders and charge the government extortionate fees during construction of a new western line. It enabled them to circumvent many of our federal finance rules. They were able to maintain this fraud by giving discounted shares to members of Congress who also agreed to support additional funding, The House submitted nine members for investigation: William Allison, James Bayard Jr., George Boutwell, Roscoe Conkling, James Harlan, James Patterson, and John Logan, along with Henry Wilson. Ultimately, Congress investigated 13 members and censured two.
“One way to find out if a man is honest is, ask him. If he says yes, he is a crook.” - Groucho Marx
In the last four decades, expulsion has been used on two other occasions, both of which involved egregious violations of criminal law and/or flagrant abuses of office. In 1980, Michael J. Myers was convicted of bribery and, in 2002, James A. Traficant was charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, fraud, receipt of illegal gratuities, obstruction of justice, filing false tax returns, and racketeering. A total of five House members have been expelled, twenty-one have been censured, and ten have been reprimanded. Two resigned but were censured on their way out of the door.
Richard Conway said, "We reserve the ultimate punishment for the worst of the worst.” Expulsion, censure and reprimand are fitting punishments for violations of ethics and dereliction of duties. But the House Ethics Committee has been too lenient by not handing out judgments to many current members of the House who have proven unfit to serve in Congress. If openly vowing allegiance to rogue regimes, condemning our country and the principles of our Constitution, inciting social and political unrest, promoting acts of violence, and protecting those who are breaking our laws aren’t grounds for discipline, what is?
“Let the punishment fit the crime.” - William Schwenck Gilbert
In its first productive act, the 116th Congress just passed a bill to modernize the legislative branch 418-12. The vote on Title II of the rules package was a non-controversial aspect of the Democrats’ rules package that most Republicans support.
For the first time in decades, we have a chance to address issues that have excogitated in Congress that has turned it into an odious carnival of reject thespian-orators. It is time for American voters to step forward and demand Congress adopts more stringent rules for policing themselves and handing out punishments to those who betray their duty to America by continuing to disrupt the governing of our nation. This opportunity is long overdue.
This is our government, and our chance to make the House more accountable to “we the people.” Each party leader will appoint six members, including two from the House Administration and Rules panel. But the caveat is, each party must select at least two “freshman.” Therefore it is vital every American voter watches this panel closely and continually voices their opinion on new rules before the final report is submitted to the full House for a vote at the end of this session.
It is time we let Congress know we want them to govern and start “cleaning house in the House.” And it’s also time to remind them that:
“The house of representatives can make no law, which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as the great mass of society. -James Madison
The Center Square