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Censure in the United States is a congressional procedure for reprimanding the President of the United States, a member of Congress, or Judge. It is argued by some constitutional experts that motions to censure the President violate the Constitution's prohibition on bills of attainder.[citation needed]


Congressional practice

Unlike impeachment, censure has no explicit basis in the United States Constitution. It derives from the formal condemnation of either congressional body of their own members. Article 1 Section 5 of the Constitution does state that each house of Congress may set its own rules of behavior, and by two-thirds vote to expel a member. Censure of Executive, Judicial or foreign entities is not explicitly defined.

Presidential censure cases


John Adams

In 1800, Representative Edward Livingston of New York introduced a censure motion against President John Adams.[1]

Andrew Jackson

Only one U.S. president has been censured by the Senate. In 1834, while under Whig control, the Senate censured Democratic President Andrew Jackson for withholding documents relating to his actions in defunding the Bank of the United States. As a partial result of public opposition to the censure itself, the Senate came under control of the Democratic Party in the next election cycle, and the censure was expunged in 1837.[2]

'During the last session of Congress under Jackson, Democrats tried to delete from their record the censure of their hero. The Whigs were just as eager to keep the censure as the Democrats were to get rid of it. The vote on censure was taken after thirteen hours of debate. Twenty-four senators voted to delete it; nineteen voted to retain it. The censure was ringed in black and officially deleted from the minutes. (Whitelaw, Nancy. Andrew Jackson Frontier President)

John Tyler

In 1842, the United States Congress voted to censure President John Tyler.[3]

James Polk

In 1848, the United States House of Representatives voted to censure President James Polk.[citation needed]

James Buchanan

In 1860, the United States Congress voted to censure President James Buchanan.[3]

Bill Clinton

In 1998, resolutions to censure President Bill Clinton for his role in the Monica Lewinsky scandal were introduced.[4][5][6][7]

George W. Bush

President George W. Bush was the subject of five different resolutions for censure, including actions related to the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy, the commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, and the Plame affair.[8][9][10][11][12] However, no censure resolution regarding George W. Bush has ever passed either house of congress.

Senatorial censures

In the history of the Senate, 9 U.S. Senators have been censured.[13]

Timothy Pickering

Timothy Pickering (F-MA) was charged with reading confidential documents in open Senate session. (January 2, 1811)

Benjamin Tappan

Benjamin Tappan (D-OH) was charged with releasing to the New York Evening Post information regarding the annexation of the Republic of Texas. (May 10, 1844)

Benjamin R. Tillman and John L. McLaurin

Benjamin R. Tillman (D-SC) and John L. McLaurin (D-SC) were charged with fighting in the Senate chamber. (February 28, 1902)

Hiram Bingham

Hiram Bingham (R-CT) was "condemned" for employing a staff member to work on tariff legislation who also was employed at the same time by the Manufacturers Association of Connecticut. (November 4, 1929)

Joseph McCarthy

Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was condemned for "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." (December 2, 1954)

Thomas J. Dodd

Thomas J. Dodd (D-CT) was censured for misappropriating campaign funds for personal use. (June 23, 1967)

Herman E. Talmadge

Herman E. Talmadge (D-GA) was charged with accepting reimbursements for expenses not incurred and improper reporting of campaign money. (October 11, 1979)

David F. Durenberger

David F. Durenberger (R-MN) was charged with unethical conduct "in connection with his arrangement with Piranha Press, his failure to report receipt of travel expenses in connection with his Piranha Press and Boston area appearances, his structuring of real estate transactions and receipt of Senate reimbursements in connection with his stays in his Minneapolis condominium, his pattern of prohibited communications respecting the condominium, his repeated acceptance of prohibited gifts of limousine service for personal purposes, and the conversion of a campaign contribution to his personal use." (July 25, 1990)

Representative censures

William Stanbery

William Stanbery (Anti-Jacksonian-OH) was censured on July 11, 1832 for insulting the House Speaker.

Joshua Reed Giddings

Joshua Reed Giddings (R-OH) was censured in 1842 for introducing resolutions against the United States attempting to recover slaves freed by the British while the court case was ongoing. He resigned and was immediately re-elected by a large majority.

Laurence M. Keitt

Laurence M. Keitt (D-SC) was censured by the House in 1856 for aiding Rep. Preston S. Brooks in his caning attack on Sen. Charles Sumner. When other Congressmen tried to come to Sumner's aid, Keitt pulled a pistol and said "Let them be." Keitt resigned and was immediately re-elected by a large majority.

Benjamin Gwinn Harris and Alexander Long

Benjamin Gwinn Harris (D-MD) and Alexander Long (D-OH) were censured on April 9, 1864 for treasonable utterances (statements in favor of the independence of the Confederacy.)

Lovell Rousseau

Lovell Rousseau (R-KY) was censured in 1866 for beating a fellow congressman, Josiah B. Grinnell (R-IA), with a cane in front of the U.S. Capitol, leading to his resignation.

John Winthrop Chanler

John Winthrop Chanler (D-NY) censured on May 14, 1866 for an insult to the House of Representatives.

John W. Hunter

John W. Hunter (D-NY) was censured on January 26, 1867 for the use of unparliamentary language.

Fernando Wood

Fernando Wood (D-NY) was censured on January 15, 1868 for the use of unparliamentary language. Resigned and was immediately re-elected.

Edward D. Holbrook

Edward D. Holbrook (D-ID Ter.) censured on February 4, 1869 for using unparliamentary language on the House floor.

Benjamin F. Whittemore

Benjamin F. Whittemore (R-SC) censured by the House of Representatives on February 24, 1870 for corruption in regard to appointments to the United States Military and Naval Academies.

John T. Deweese

John T. Deweese (R-NC) also censured by the House of Representatives on March 1, 1870, for selling an appointment to the Naval Academy

Roderick R. Butler

Roderick R. Butler (R-TN) also censured March 17, 1870, for corruption in regard to an appointment to West Point.

James Brooks

James Brooks (politician) (D-NY) was censured by the House of Representatives on February 27, 1873, for attempted bribery in connection with the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal.

Oakes Ames

Oakes Ames (R-MA) was also censured in the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal, on February 28, 1873 for "seeking to secure congressional attention to the affairs of a corporation in which he was interested, and whose interest directly depended upon the legislation of Congress, by inducing members of Congress to invest in the stocks of said corporation."

William D. Bynum

William D. Bynum (R-IN) was censured on May 17, 1890, for the use of unparliamentary language.

Thomas L. Blanton

Thomas L. Blanton (D-TX) was unanimously censured on October 24, 1921, for "abuse of leave to print." after inserting "obscene" and "indecent" materials into the Congressional Record.

Charles Diggs

Charles Diggs (D-MI) censured by the House on July 31, 1979 after being convicted of mail fraud. He served 14 months of a 3-year sentence.

Daniel J. Flood

Daniel J. Flood (D-PA) was censured for bribery in 1980, leading to his resignation.

Charles H. Wilson

Charles H. Wilson (D-CA) was censured on June 10, 1980 for "financial misconduct" as a result of the "Koreagate" scandal of 1976. Koreagate was an American political scandal involving South Koreans seeking influence with members of Congress. An immediate goal seems to have been reversing President Richard Nixon's decision to withdraw troops from South Korea. It involved the KCIA (now National Intelligence Service (South Korea)) funneling bribes and favors through Korean businessman Tongsun Park in an attempt to gain favor and influence. Some 115 members of the United States Congress were implicated. Edward R. Roybal (D-CA), Ronald Dellums (D-CA) and Phillip Burton (D-CA) were reprimanded.

Gerry Studds

Gerry Studds (D-MA) was censured in 1983 for inappropriate sexual behavior with a congressional page.

Dan Crane

Dan Crane (R-IL) was censured in 1983 for inappropriate sexual behavior with a congressional page.

George V. Hansen

George V. Hansen (R-ID) was censured by the House for failing to include transactions on federal disclosure forms. He was convicted and served 15 months but the conviction was overturned in 1995.

Barney Frank

Barney Frank (D-MA) was reprimanded on 26 July, 1990 for fixing parking tickets for his roommate and some-time lover.

Austin J. Murphy

Austin J. Murphy (D-PA) was reprimanded on December 18, 1987 for ghost voting and misusing House funds.

Cabinet censures

Augustus H. Garland

Augustus Hill Garland, Attorney General in Grover Cleveland's administration, was censured in 1886 for failing to provide documents about the firing of a federal prosecutor.[14]

See also


  1. ^ [ "Pelosi Votes Against Articles of Impeachment Argues in Favor of Censure"]. Retrieved 2007-08-06. 
  2. ^ "U.S. Senate: Art & History Home > Historical Minutes > 1801-1850 > Senate Censures President". Retrieved 2006-04-01. 
  3. ^ a b "Congressman Wexler to File Resolution Censuring President Bush for Commuting Libby's Prison Sentence". Retrieved 20 December 2008. 
  4. ^ S.Res. 44
  5. ^ H.J.Res. 139
  6. ^ H.J.Res. 12
  7. ^ H.J.Res. 140
  8. ^ S.Res. 398
  9. ^ H.Res. 530
  10. ^ H.Res. 636
  11. ^ S.Res. 302
  12. ^ S.Res. 303
  13. ^ "U.S. Senate:Home > Art & History Home > Origins & Development > Powers & Procedures > Expulsion and Censure". Retrieved 2007-08-06. 
  14. ^ Gonzales Vote Faces Obstacles This Week

Further reading


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