I spoke about this issue yesterday on ABC 10 in Sacramento with Giacomo Luca.
Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor are the most recent men terminated by their private employers because of credible allegations of sexual misconduct. Contract terms set out the ability of the media outlets to discipline these employees. But what of state and federal elected officials, who are put into office by a vote of the people and serve the citizens rather than a private employer? A constitution – again either state or federal – is what sets out the ability of a legislature, or the people, to discipline elected officials.
Article IV, Section 5 (a) (1) of the California Constitution provides that the Assembly or Senate may expel a member by a 2/3 vote, without specifying particular grounds for expulsion. Proposition 50 passed by the voters in June 2016 amended the Constitution to give both Houses the power to suspend members with or without pay, with a recitation of reasons and by a 2/3 vote. The California Constitution also provides a procedure for the voters to recall an elected official prior to the end of the official’s term. That can be done by means of a popular vote.
Article I, Section 5, of the United States Constitution provides that “Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.” The Constitution does not specify grounds for expulsion but in practice the grounds have involved disloyalty to the nation or corruption. Censure is a less severe form of disciple, imposed by a majority vote of either House, which states disapproval of a member’s behavior but does not remove the official from office or limit the official’s powers. There is no federal voter recall procedure, and impeachment, available against the President, government officials, and judges, does not apply against Congress members or Senators.