- The Constitution's Article I, Section 5, clause 2 authorizes
the House of Representatives to discipline or "punish" its members
for "disorderly Behavior," as well as for criminal, civil liability,
or other misconduct issues. Ostensibly it's to protect the institutional
integrity and reputation of the body, an impossible challenge given its
longstanding record, notably over the past three decades, deserving far
more than censure.
- Punishment may be by reprimand, censure, expulsion, and/or
fines, monetary restitution, loss of seniority, and suspension or loss
of certain privileges. In addition, the House Committee on Standards of
Official Conduct may issue a formal Committee reproach by "Letter
of Reproval" for misconduct not warranting full House action. It may
also express disapproval by informal letters and/or direct communications
- In US history, five members were expelled, three during
the Civil War for disloyalty to the Union. Others, however, resigned ahead
of formal House action. More recently, on October 2, 1980, Rep. Michael
J. Myers was removed after being convicted of bribery for political favors
in the so-called ABSCAM FBI sting operation. On July 24, 2002, Rep. James
Traficant, Jr. was also expelled after his 10-count conviction on charges
of accepting favors, gifts and money in return for performing official
beneficial acts for donors.
- Unlike "expel," the term "censure"
doesn't appear in the Constitution, although it's also authorized under
Article I, Section 5, clause 2 power to "punish...Members for disorderly
Behavior." Most actions occurred in the 19th century, usually over
issues of decorum, including insulting other members on the floor, committing
violent acts against them, supporting recognition of the Confederacy, selling
military academy appointments, or more recently for financial misconduct
or sexual misbehavior with House pages.
- On July 11, 1832, Rep. William Stanberry was the first
member censured for insulting the House Speaker. Prior to December 2, 2010,
Reps. Daniel Crane and Gerry Studds were both censured on July 20, 1983
for sexual misconduct with House pages.
- Charles Bernard Rangel, Democrat Representative for New
York's 15th Congressional District
- On December 2, the House voted 333 - 79 to censure Rangel
(a 20-term member since January 1971) for ethics violations, its harshest
penalty short of expulsion.
- He becomes the 23rd House member so disciplined. In his
case, it's for 11 of 13 charges, including improperly soliciting millions
of dollars from corporate officials and lobbyists, failing to disclose
hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and assets on financial disclosure
forms, maintaining a rent-subsidized luxury Harlem apartment for his campaign
committee, and failing to pay income taxes on a Dominican Republic villa.
- In one of several December 2 New York Times articles,
David Kocieniewski headlined, "As Rangel Stands Silently, Censure
Vote Rings Loudly," saying:
- "....his gaze steady (and) hands clasped before
him, (Rangel) stood silently in the well of the House of Representatives....as
Speaker Nancy Pelosi somberly read a resolution censuring him for bringing
discredit to the House," and "violat(ing) the public trust."
- Imagine the brazen hypocrisy by a tainted Speaker and
body. More on that below.
- A December 2 Times editorial headlined, "The House
Rebukes Mr. Rangel," calling "the mood on the House floor....appropriately
grim." Adding also that "Taxpayers disgusted by Mr. Rangel's
actions and Congress' go-along-get-along attitude must demand more...."
- Indeed so, but not what The Times suggests. More on that
- Major Unaddressed Issues
- Besides their own compromised ethics, notably their ties
to big money donors, both Congress and administration officials are guilty
of high crimes and misdemeanors, ones far greater than Rangel's self-enrichment.
- The list is long and disturbing, affecting all 535 members
and every key administration official - serious crimes deserving indictments,
prosecutions, and for most, imprisonment, not slaps on the wrist, reprimands,
censure, expulsion, or for a president and vice president, impeachment,
conviction, and removal.
- Unsurprisingly, the extensive Times coverage said nothing,
nor ever earlier about high government crimes and misdemeanors, the "newspaper
of record" effectively endorsing them. That's its role serving power
and privilege, relenting only in rare instances, this time on Rangel, perhaps
reluctantly. Never for the most serious criminality, examples below.
- They include:
- (1) Crimes of war and against humanity. All congressional
members supporting the bogus war on terror and illegal Iraq and Afghan
wars, including funding, are guilty, as are high, middle, and lower level
administration officials, including the president and vice president.
- (2) Looting the Treasury for Wall Street and corporate
- (3) Bailing out criminal banks instead of nationalizing
or closing them, and prosecuting their top officials for fraud and grand
- (4) Consigning millions of Americans to impoverishment
without jobs, homes, savings, social services, or futures.
- (5) Letting hunger, homelessness, and poverty fester
while plundering the nation's resources illegally.
- (6) Funding Israel's war machine, its crimes and overall
- (7) Illegally supporting regime change in independent
countries, including Venezuela, Iran, Honduras, Haiti, Ecuador, North Korea,
- (8) Prohibiting independent political parties from challenging
a two-party dictatorship, supporting privilege, not popular interests.
- (9) Endorsing pre-scripted, big money-funded fake elections,
not a free, fair and open process.
- (10) Allowing the world's largest homeland gulag to grow,
persist, and commit grotesque crimes against inmates, many unjustly convicted.
- (11) Passing police state laws, turning democracy into
- (12) Endorsing torture as official policy.
- (13) Permitting the criminalization of activists, challenging
state policy against imperial wars, homeland repression, and favoritism
for wealth over vital popular needs.
- (14) Endorsing a corrupted judicial system, including
stacking the federal bench with right-wing ideologues.
- (15) Passing wealth and power-friendly legislation, harming
millions, including the middle class, targeted for destruction.
- (16) Vilifying Muslims for their faith, ethnicity, prominence,
activism, and charity.
- (17) Targeting human rights attorneys and other lawyers
who defend unpopular clients too vigorously.
- (18) Calling patriotic whisleblowers traitors.
- (19) Attacking a free and open Internet.
- (20) Denying immigrants of color fair and just treatment.
- (21) Supporting privatization of essential services,
including healthcare and education.
- (22) Working covertly to end Social Security, Medicare,
Medicaid and other vital social services.
- Much more as well by officials corrupting the notion
of government of, by and for the people. Repeatedly, they've betrayed the
public trust by acting illegally, immorally, and/or destructively, including
Rangel for his voting record, and (until replaced on March 3 over ethics
charges), as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
- It has jurisdiction over tax policy, tariffs, other revenue-raising
measures, and vital programs, including Social Security, Medicare, unemployment
benefits, federal welfare, enforcement of child support laws, and foster
care and adoption programs. Its chairman holds immense power for good or
ill. None in recent memory, including Rangel, served honorably, a "crime"
omitted from his charges, as well as his 40-year voting record, supporting
power, privilege, imperial wars, and corporate interests like most members
- All should be held accountable for issues far graver
than self-enrichment. They affect everyone but the super-rich and rich,
including betrayed constituents deserving better from elected officials
but never getting it from either party - a real crime demanding much greater
punishment than wrist-slaps, reprimands, fines, loss of privileges, or
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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