Some Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have suggested that if Alabamians elect Roy Moore to the chamber in the special election, they’ll expel him. This promise from the GOP might be the best way that leadership can signal to Republican voters that they can vote for Moore despite the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him. If he is elected, they will handle the problem.
But the chances of McConnell and his colleagues following through on this threat are extremely small. Historically, the House and Senate have been very reluctant to deploy their most punitive power.
Under the Constitution (Article I, Section 5) the House and Senate each have the authority to punish its members for “disorderly behavior.” Under the rules Congress has adopted, each chamber has three options for dealing with problematic colleagues. The House and Senate can censure or reprimand a member by a majority vote. This, the least of the possible acts of punishment, is a formal condemnation that still allows the person to remain in office. The House and Senate can also each exclude someone by a majority vote, which prevents an elected member from taking their seat because they lack the technical credentials. Finally, the most severe punishment available to the House and Senate is to expel a seated member for improper behavior, which requires the consent of two-thirds of the membership.
Both chambers have been willing to exercise the least drastic power without much hesitation. During the 19th century, there were numerous censures in the House of Representatives when decorum broke down—ranging from physical acts of violence to unruly language. William Stanberry was censured in 1832 for insulting the speaker; Lovell Rousseau was censured in 1866 for assaulting a member. The Senate famously censured Joseph McCarthy in 1954. Democratic Senator Thomas Dodd was censured …read more
Via:: The Atlantic