In Congress' 213-Year History, Expulsion 'Exceedingly rare'.(NATION)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

In Congress' 213-Year History, Expulsion 'Exceedingly rare'.(NATION)


Byline: Ellen Sorokin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The power to expel a House or Senate member for misconduct is a weapon of last resort for members of Congress.

Congressional historians and political science professors said yesterday's House decision to expel Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., nine-term Ohio Democrat, was a rare occurrence and one that is not taken lightly.

"It's rare, exceedingly rare," said James A. Thurber, a government professor at American University and director of the university's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. "It has occurred before, but this case is unique in the institution because Mr. Traficant is not only a maverick, he's a wacko maverick."

Traficant last night became just the second House member since the Civil War to be kicked out of office, the fifth in history and the first in nearly a generation.

The House backed the expulsion overwhelmingly, on a 420-to-1 vote, citing Traficant's April conviction in federal court for bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. The House ethics committee - formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct - found him guilty of nine of 10 rules violations earlier this month.

In its 213-year history, the House had used the expulsion power only four times, although serious efforts to remove members were made in more than two dozen other cases. Twenty-two House members have been censured and eight reprimanded since 1789.

The last House member expelled before Traficant was Rep. Michael J. Myers, Pennsylvania Democrat, who was removed after a 1980 conviction for taking bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as Arab sheiks in what became known as the "Abscam" probe.

Expulsion is the harshest penalty a House or Senate ethics committee can recommend, followed by censure, reprimand or fines. Expulsion requires the approval of two-thirds of the defendant's legislative body.

Three of the other four House expulsions before last night occurred in 1861, when the House unseated members accused of supporting the Confederacy at the outset of the Civil War.

The Senate has expelled 15 of its members since 1789. …

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