List of United States senators expelled or censured

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The United States Constitution gives the Senate the power to expel any member by a two-thirds vote. This is distinct from the impeachment power the Senate has over executive and judicial federal officials. The Senate concluded in 1798 that Senators could not be impeached, but only expelled, while conducting the impeachment trial of William Blount, who had already been expelled.[1]

Expulsion is an extremely rare event. It has not occurred since the Civil War, which most of the expulsions were related to, although this is partly because many members resign rather than face a formal proceeding when expulsion appears possible. Censure, a lesser punishment which represents a formal statement of disapproval, has been more common in the last century. Although censure carries no formal punishment, only one Senator (Benjamin R. Tillman) of the nine to be censured has ever been re-elected.

Expelled senators[edit]

Year Senator Party State Details
1797 William Blount Democratic-Republican Tennessee Expelled for treason and conspiracy to incite the Creek and Cherokee Indians to assist Great Britain in invading Spanish Florida.
1861 James M. Mason Democratic Virginia Expelled for supporting Confederate rebellion.
Robert M. T. Hunter Democratic
Thomas L. Clingman Democratic North Carolina
Thomas Bragg Democratic
James Chesnut, Jr. Democratic South Carolina
Alfred O. P. Nicholson Democratic Tennessee
William K. Sebastian Democratic Arkansas Expelled for supporting Confederate rebellion.
His expulsion was posthumously reversed in 1877.
Charles B. Mitchel Democratic Expelled for supporting Confederate rebellion.
John Hemphill Democratic Texas
Louis Wigfall Democratic
John C. Breckinridge Democratic Kentucky
1862 Trusten Polk Democratic Missouri
Waldo P. Johnson Democratic
Jesse D. Bright Democratic Indiana

Expulsion proceedings not resulting in expulsion[edit]

Many expulsion proceedings have been begun by the Senate that did not lead to expulsion. In most cases, the expulsion failed to secure the necessary two-thirds vote; in other cases the Senator in question resigned while proceedings were taking place, presumably because the Senator felt that the proceedings would succeed or that his political career would not survive them regardless. In a few cases, the proceedings ended when a Senator died or his term expired.

Year Senator Party State Result Details
1808 John Smith Democrat-Republican Ohio Not expelled Assisted Aaron Burr's western expedition; resigned two weeks after expulsion failed
1856 Henry Mower Rice Democratic Minnesota Not expelled Charged with corruption
1862 Lazarus W. Powell Democratic Kentucky Not expelled Accused of supporting the Confederacy
1862 James F. Simmons Republican Rhode Island Resigned Charged with corruption
1873 James W. Patterson Republican New Hampshire Term expired Charged with corruption
1893 William N. Roach Democratic North Dakota Not expelled Charged with embezzlement; Senate determined that charges were too far in the past
1905 John H. Mitchell Republican Oregon Died during proceedings Charged with corruption
1906 Joseph R. Burton Republican Kansas Resigned Convicted and upheld by the Supreme Court for receiving compensation for intervening with a federal agency
1907 Reed Smoot Republican Utah Not expelled Senate committee asserted that Smoot, as a Mormon, belonged to a religion incompatible with US law; Senate found 43-27 that this was not relevant.
1919 Robert M. La Follette, Sr. Republican Wisconsin Not expelled Charged with disloyalty for a speech opposing entry into World War I; Senate found 50-21 that this was not warranted
1922 Truman Handy Newberry Republican Michigan Resigned Convicted of election fraud, but overturned, for excessive spending in a primary election.
1924 Burton K. Wheeler Democratic Montana Not expelled Indicted for conflict of interest after serving in legal cases to which the United States was a party. Exonerated by Senate 56-5
1934 John H. Overton Democratic Louisiana Not expelled Investigated for election fraud
Huey Long
1942 William Langer Republican North Dakota Not expelled Charged with corruption and moral turpitude while Governor of North Dakota; full senate voted against expulsion 52-30
1982 Harrison A. Williams Democratic New Jersey Resigned Convicted for bribery and conspiracy in the Abscam scandal; resigned before a vote by the full Senate
1995 Bob Packwood Republican Oregon Resigned Charged with sexual misconduct and abuse of power; resigned before a Senate vote
2011 John Ensign Republican Nevada Resigned Charged with financial improprieties stemming from an extramarital affair. Resigned before vote.

Censured senators[edit]

Year Senator Party State Reason
1811 Timothy Pickering Federalist Massachusetts Reading confidential documents in open Senate session before an injunction of secrecy was removed.
1844 Benjamin Tappan Democratic Ohio Releasing to the New York Evening Post a copy of President John Tyler's message to the Senate regarding the treaty of annexation between the United States and the Republic of Texas.
1902 Benjamin R. Tillman Democratic South Carolina Fighting on the Senate floor with John L. McLaurin.
John L. McLaurin Fighting on the Senate floor with Benjamin R. Tillman.
1929 Hiram Bingham Republican Connecticut Employing as a Senate staff member Charles Eyanson, who was simultaneously employed by the Manufacturers Association of Connecticut.
1954 Joseph McCarthy Republican Wisconsin Abuse and non-cooperation with the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections during a 1952 investigation of his conduct; for abuse of the Select Committee to Study Censure.
1967 Thomas J. Dodd Democratic Connecticut Use of his office to convert campaign funds to his personal benefit. Conduct unbecoming a senator.
1979 Herman Talmadge Democratic Georgia Improper financial conduct, accepting reimbursements for official expenses not incurred, and improper reporting of campaign receipts and expenditures.
1990 David Durenberger Republican Minnesota Unethical conduct relating to reimbursement of Senate expenses and acceptance of outside payments and gifts.

See also[edit]

Federal politicians:

State and local politics:

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Senate historical minutes". U.S. Senate. Retrieved 3 July 2009. 

References[edit]