[COMMENTARY] The House Should Censure Trump
When the news broke on September 18th about Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s death, most Republicans couldn’t even wait until her body had cooled before calling for her replacement to be nominated. With barely six weeks before the election, Democrats were calling on their counterparts across the aisle to put a pin in the whole thing until after the inauguration, which was both a promise the Republicans had made in previous years, as well as Ginsburg’s dying wish. To no one’s surprise, every member of the GOP that had promised they would never try to push a SCOTUS nominee through during an election year is openly going back on their words, not caring who calls them hypocrites, their eyes on the ultimate prize of another conservative on the bench to finally overturn Roe v. Wade and set women back decades.
With the announcement that Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative who is also a member of a dubious religious group (some might say cult) called People of Praise. Not only is she vehemently pro-life, Coney Barrett pushes her belief in prophecies and has actively participated in ceremonies where other members speak in tongues.
If all of this sounds like we’re living in the prequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, that’s because we essentially are. The Republicans are continuing to work harder to take away our freedoms even as America crossed the threshold of 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Feeling helpless in the face of yet another Republican plot to load the highest court in the world with people who will vote according to their agenda? There’s actually something that can be done to bring the entire process to a grinding halt.
It’s called censure, and it’s something that needs to happen as soon as possible. Here’s how our friends at Wikipedia explain the basics:
In the United States, governmental censure is done when a body’s members wish to publicly reprimand the President of the United States, a member of Congress, a judge, or a cabinet member. It is a formal statement of disapproval.
The United States Constitution specifically grants impeachment and conviction powers, respectively, to the House of Representatives and Senate. It also grants both congressional bodies the power to expel their own members, though it does not mention censure. Congress adopted a resolution allowing censure, which is “stronger than a simple rebuke, but not as strong as expulsion.”In general, each house of Congress is responsible for invoking censure against its own members; censure against other government officials is not common. Because censure is not specifically mentioned as the accepted form of reprimand, many censure actions against members of Congress may be listed officially as rebuke, condemnation, or denouncement.
Big deal, you say. We do that on Twitter every day, Trump doesn’t care.
And while you wouldn’t be wrong, he would have to care about censure, because he would have to show up for it.
In the House of Representatives, censure is essentially a form of public humiliation carried out on the House floor. As the Speaker of the House reads out a resolution rebuking a member for a specified misconduct, that member must stand in the House well and listen to it.
This would also apply to anyone else being censured, like a judge, or a Cabinet member.
Or a President.
Since the Democrats hold their majority in the House, that’s where he would be censured, but House Democrats could also force Republican Senators to appear during censure to be questioned or participate in some other way. While the House has indeed censured Trump twice before, it was in the context of two specific and separate measures where no further action was taken and it never made a blip on the national radar.
A proper censuring of Trump would be televised, and not only would Trump be forced to appear, he also would not be allowed to speak on his own behalf, nor have anyone else speak on his behalf. He doesn’t get a defense, which is why censure is possibly more effective at this stage than an attempt to impeach him for the second time. He couldn’t dispute any of the rebukes, nor could he respond in real time. There would be nothing stopping him from rage-tweeting afterward, but the damage would already be done long before he could get to his phone.
There is no official punishment for censure, but the court of public opinion would certainly make a ruling of its own. Vulnerable Republican Senators running for re-election would have the additional taint of Trump’s censure on them, with the very real chance that their constituents will be questioning their support after hearing hours of his illegal misdeeds. It could make a real impact at the polls on November 3rd, or even sooner as early voting has already begun in some states and mail-in voting will begin shortly.
Censure will get everything Donald Trump and his associates have done into the official historical record. That in and of itself is the best reason to censure him before the election.