What is presidential censure?

Donald Trump's controversial remarks about Charlottesville has House Democrats calling for presidential censure.

House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., endorsed a resolution introduced Friday by Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler of New York, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, and Pramila Jayapal of Washington to censure Trump.

"The President's repulsive defense of white supremacists demands that Congress act to defend our American values," Pelosi said in a statement.

The resolution has been co-sponsored by nearly 80 members of Congress and cites specific actions the representatives believe are reason for censure:

  • Whereas President Donald Trump’s immediate public comments rebuked “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and failed to specifically condemn the ‘Unite the Right’ rally or cite the white supremacist, neo-Nazi gathering as responsible for actions of domestic terrorism.
  • Whereas President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with, and cultivated the influence of, senior advisors and spokespeople who have long histories of promoting white nationalist, alt-Right, racist and anti-Semitic principles and policies within the country.
  • Whereas President Donald Trump has failed to provide adequate condemnation and assure the American people of his resolve to opposing domestic terrorism.

But what exactly is censure?

In the U.S., censure is a formal statement of disapproval, also known as a condemnation or denouncement, of a public official such a senator, judge or the president, according to the U.S. Senate website.

In other words, it's a public shaming.

A censure is less severe than impeachment and doesn't remove a public official from office but it can affect an official's relationship with the Senate and taint their reputation.

What's the process for censure?

Unlike the process of impeachment, the U.S. Constitution doesn't specifically state a procedure for censure. However, Article 1, Section 5, Clause 2 reads:

"Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member."

Censure can be adopted through a resolution, which is a written motion that expresses an opinion or will of a legislative body. Resolutions can take a stance in matters of public policy or, serve a purpose in internal and administrative purposes, as would be the case in a presidential censure. 

A resolution can be introduced, debated or voted on by the House, the Senate or both chambers at the same time. It can also be introduced as jointly, in a concurrent resolution.

The resolution would have to gain enough support to be brought to the floor for a vote.

Have censures been used on other U.S. presidents?

The only president in history to have been censured was Andrew Jackson on March 28, 1834, according to the U.S. Senate website.

During the second year of his second term of presidency, the Senate demanded Jackson turn over documents regarding his veto against an act to re-charter the Bank of the United States but Jackson refused. 

Jackson had vetoed the motion two years before he was asked for the papers. The veto became an issue during his 1832 reelection campaign, when he defeated Senator Henry Clay, according to the U.S. Senate site.

After the election, Jackson moved to withdraw federal deposits from that bank but a new Congress convened in 1833 and Clay's anti-administration coalition in the Senate held an eight-vote majority over Jackson's fellow Democrats.

Clay challenged Jackson on the bank issues and then led the decision to censure Jackson. After 10 weeks of debate, the Senate voted 26 to 20 to censure the president for assuming power not conferred by the Constitution, according to the U.S. Senate website. 

Jackson protested his censure and the Senate responded by refusing to print the president's message in its journal. The censure was expunged three years later in 1837, when the Democratic party regained control of the Senate.

Since 1798, the Senate has censured nine Senators.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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