Increase in Attempts to Censure, Expel Congressional Members

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this week, the House voted to censure Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib (D- MI) for her comments about the Israel-Hamas war. In recent months, we’ve seen a growing numbers of members trying to censure or expel one another. Some said members are using this as a political weapon against each other.  

“I can’t believe I have to say this but Palestinian people are not disposable,” said Rep. Tlaib on the House floor on Monday.  

It was a dramatic and emotional debate. Rep. Tlaib holding back tears, speaking on the House floor defending herself against a resolution to censure her for comments she made about the Israel- Hamas conflict. The resolution accuses Tlaib, who is the only Palestinian American member of congress, of spreading false narratives about the conflict, including using the slogan “from the river to the sea”. 

“That quote has long been a rallying cry for supporters of Hamas and terrorists hellbent on destroying Israel,” said Rep. Jack Bergman (R- MI). “’From the river to the sea’ refers to the Jordan area and the Mediterranean Sea which is the state of Israel. I take no joy in standing here today to censure a fellow Michigan Representative but Congresswoman Tlaib’s words and actions are abhorrent and beneath her office.” 

On a 234 to 188 vote, a handful of democrats joined republicans in censuring Tlaib. Some accuse members of using this procedure for political gain against opponents.  

“There is no censure tit for tat,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D- NY). “What has happened is republicans have weaponized the vehicle for censure. Why? Because they have no agenda.” 

According to political scientists, a censure doesn’t hold any weight. It’s just a public criticism of a member.  

“But it is embarrassing and nobody ever wants it to happen to them,” said Dr. Todd Belt, professor and director of political management at George Washington University.  

A total of 26 House members, including Tlaib, have been censured. It doesn’t happen often but that’s changed in recent time. Tlaib is the second House member to be censured this year. A few months ago, republicans voted to censure democratic Representative Adam Schiff (D- CA) for his role in congressional investigations into former president Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. And the wort offense above censuring: expulsion. The attempt to expel members has also been recently used. Last week, New York republicans led the charge to try and expel New York republican Representative George Santos (R- NY) over his federal criminal indictments and other behaviors.  

While Santos’ charges and a House Ethics Committee investigation are still pending, Santos said his fellow members are acting as “judge, jury and executioner”.  

“As much as I hate to agree with somebody like Representative Santos he does have a point,” said Belt. “This does appear as though members of congress when they try to censure or try to expel someone are getting out ahead of things and reacting more quickly and perhaps are being pushed by more public opinion instead of the real process or due process through the court system.”