Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota claimed Sunday that the Senate could expel GOP nominee Roy Moore if Alabama elects him in the upcoming Senate election.
Although it rarely occurs, the Constitution does allow each house of Congress to expel its members with a two-thirds vote.
Klobuchar made the statement on NBC when asked how the Senate should respond if Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct, wins the Senate race.
“If the state of Alabama does vote for Roy Moore into the United States Senate, do you believe the Senate has a duty to seat him?” asked “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd.
Klobuchar answered that the Senate would have to seat Moore. “We may not have much choice on that,” she said.
Although the House and Senate refused to seat elected members during the 19th and 20th centuries for cases of “prior criminal, immoral, or disloyal conduct,” the Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that elected candidates are to be seated unless they fail to meet the basic requirements of age, citizenship and residency.
Klobuchar did raise the possibility, however, of expelling Moore if he becomes a sitting senator. “We do have a choice on something else,” she said. “And that is that you can expel a senator once they’re in with two-thirds of the vote after the Ethics Committee – it’s happened in the past – does an investigation.”
Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution grants Congress this authority. “Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member,” it reads.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the clause grants the Senate “almost unbridled discretion,” meaning a member can be unseated for almost any reason, including allegations of prior sexual misconduct.
If voters elect Moore, the Senate could refer his conduct to the Select Committee on Ethics. If the committee were to find “clear and convincing evidence” of misconduct, the Senate could either “censure” him – meaning express formal disapproval of his behavior – or take the more dramatic step of voting to expel him.
This is merely a hypothetical, however, and senators have only ever been expelled for allegations of treason. “Expulsions in the Senate, as well as the House, have historically been reserved for cases of the most serious misconduct: disloyalty to the government or abuses of one’s official position,” reads a Congressional Research Service report on the matter.
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