In response to Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, three Democrats want to censure the president.
Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., announced their intent to introduce a formal resolution of censure tomorrow when the House is back in session. A censure resolution, if adopted, would be a formal and historic rebuke from Congress of Trump's remarks.
The draft resolution from the small group of Democrats cites specific actions the representatives believe merit censure:
“Whereas President Donald Trump’s immediate public comments rebuked ‘many sides’ for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and failed to specifically condemn the ‘Unite the Right’ rally or cite the white supremacist, neo-Nazi gathering as responsible for actions of domestic terrorism.”
"Whereas President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with, and cultivated the influence of, senior advisors and spokespeople who have long histories of promoting white nationalist, alt-Right, racist and anti-Semitic principles and policies within the country."
What is censure?
A censure in the context of the United States government is an official statement of disapproval or condemnation towards a public official, including cabinet members, judges, members of Congress and the president. While a censure does not remove an individual from office, it can send a powerful message rebuking his or her past actions or statements. Members of the House of Representatives who are censured are forced to give up any committee chairmanships.
How does it work?
The Constitution does not specifically mention censures, though article 1, Section 5, Clause 2 of the Constitution states that “each house may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.”
There is no one process for passing censure motions in Congress. Unlike impeachment proceedings, which have very set procedural rules, a motion to censure could be introduced, debated or voted on in the House, the Senate or both chambers simultaneously. It could be introduced jointly, in the form of what’s called a concurrent resolution, in both chambers or not. As is the case with other calls for other resolutions, there is no guarantee an individual representative’s motion to censure will be brought to the floor for a vote
When have censures been used?
According to the National Constitution Center, censure motions were introduced against presidents Abraham Lincoln, John Tyler, James Polk, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. However, the U.S. Senate has only successfully passed a censure motion against one president.
In 1834, the Senate censured President Andrew Jackson when he refused to submit notes from his Cabinet meeting regarding his veto against a Congressional motion to re-charter the First Bank of the United States. Henry Clay, a member of the rival Whig political party, then led the decision to censure Jackson. After 10 weeks of debate, Senate members voted 26-20 to pass the censure against Jackson for using "authority and power not conferred by the Constitution."
Largely symbolic in nature, the motion did not prevent Jackson from making his proposed changes to the bank, but according to the National Constitution Center, he remained angry about the decision for years. In a message to the Senate in April 1834 Jackson said the censure was “wholly unauthorized by the Constitution, and in derogation of its entire spirit.” The censure was expunged three years later in 1837 when the Democratic party regained control of the Senate.
Since 1978, nine senators have been censured, with the most recent case in 1990.
The House last passed a censure measure against then-Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., in 2010 over violating ethics rules by misusing donations and failing to pay income taxes. According to the Congressional Research Service, 23 representatives have been censured.