Congress could punish, expel its own members following deadly riot

Congress considers expelling members after riot
Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 1:24 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The search for answers after last week’s deadly mob of pro-Trump extremists sieged the Capitol leaves lawmakers pointing the finger at each other.

It’s possible some lawmakers will lose their seats over what they said online and in Congress.

Twice impeached, President Donald Trump’s time in the White House will end before he faces another Senate trial. He’s accused of inciting the violent mob that day in a public speech and through his repeated claims of a stolen election.

The president’s claims of widespread fraud lack any substantial evidence and claims of unconstitutional voting processes have been summarily rejected by courts.

“The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country,” Trump said on January 12th, one day later ten Republicans crossed the aisle to join House Democrats in voting to impeach the president. T

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is calling for a pair of the president’s congressional allies to step down with years left in their terms, or be forced out. Brown accuses Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) of giving support to baseless allegations of voter fraud and criticizes their efforts to overturn a free and fair election.

“I know they won’t resign,” said Brown, “they’re not the kind of people that would resign or even show contrition.”

While Brown has called for expulsion, he has not yet taken steps to formally begin that process. He said he’s waiting to hear from more of his colleagues and argues Congress needs to focus on more pressing matters first.

Asked why impeachment should proceed as quickly as possible but expulsion could wait, Brown said the two senators don’t have the megaphone the president does. “They played a role in the insurrection,” Brown said, “nobody played as big a role as the President of the United States.”

Neither Cruz nor Hawley granted our repeated interview requests in the weeks before the January 6th Electoral College certification or time since. But elsewhere, both have characterized themselves as the victims of partisan attacks.

A spokesperson for Cruz provided this quote from a radio interview with Houston television station KTRK:

“No one should be surprised to see Democrats playing politics and to see them try to attack strong conservative leaders. That’s something Democrats have done for a long time. I do think it’s really cynical for them to be trying to take advantage of what was a tragic event”

In an op-ed explaining his objections to Electoral College certification, Hawley wrote in-part:

“Sadly, much of the media and many members of the Washington establishment want to deceive Americans into thinking those who raised concerns incited violence, simply by voicing the concern. That’s false. And the allegation itself is corrosive and dangerous.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) is also fending off calls for her resignation or removal. “The Democrats are doing anything and everything they can to punish as many Republicans as possible,” she said.

Critics argue she sparked revolt with her tweets and Electoral College objections. A tweet sent on the morning on January, 6th said simply, “today is 1776,” a reference to the country’s revolution and founding.

Later, once the mob entered the Capitol, Boebert tweeted updates which some argued provided information that could have jeopardized lawmaker’s safety.

Boebert brushes off the criticism as Democratic hypocrisy, “I knew I would face people calling me a seditionist, a traitor,” she said, “I was not thinking they would call me an insurrectionist.”

She said she and her Republican colleagues have been receiving threats of physical violence from the left over the last week, and called on Democrats to denounce such behavior.

Since the Civil War, Congress has only booted two of its members. Removing a lawmaker takes the support of two-third of a chamber’s members.

Georgetown University’s Mark Rom doesn’t expect new additions to that short list of expelled members. “They’re unlikely to be expelled,” he said of those under scrutiny, “but the politics can change.”

Rom said investigations could reveal more damning evidence. Short of expulsion, he said censure -- a formal reprimand -- or stripping a lawmaker of their committee assignments is far more likely. Rom noted even those punishments may be political longshots.

If Cruz and Hawley are punished, or even just find their popularity takes a hit, Rom said that could carry significant repercussions politically. Both are widely-considered to be lining themselves up for potential presidential runs of their own in 2024.

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