Statistics of US Senate Disciplining Its Members

Quote of the Day

The Oversimplification, The Cherry Pick, The Butter-up Undercut, The Demonizer, The Blame the Blogger, The Ridicule and Dismiss, The Literal Nitpick, The Credit Snatch, The Certain Uncertainty, The Blind Eye to Follow-Up, The Lost in Translation, The Straight-Up Fabrication.

David Levitan (author of the book Not a Scientist), his categorization of the methods politicians use to obfuscate science. I have seen our politicians use every method he described. Politicians generally begin their attack on science with the phrase "I am not a scientist but …"

Figure 1: Drawing of Senators Fist Fighting in the 1800s.

Figure 1: Senators Fist Fighting. (Source)

The controversial senate candidacy of Roy Moore has resulted in some discussion of how the US Senate would respond if he won the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has mentioned the possibility of expulsion. I could not recall hearing of anyone being expelled from the Senate recently, so I decided to grab some data from the Senate web site and summarize it here.

I used Power Query to download and process the data from the Senate website. Figure 2 shows my summary of all expelled Senators. Only 15 senators have been expelled, with 14 being expelled for their participation in the Confederacy. The last senator to be expelled was in 1862.

 Figure 2: List of All Expelled US Senators.

Figure 2: List of All Expelled US Senators.

There are other ways the US Senate can discipline its members – actions like censure, condemnation, and denunciation. Near as I can tell, people distinguish condemnation and denunciation from censure, but there really is no difference (e.g. discussion of McCarthy). Figure 3 show the list of senators subjected to forms of discipline other than expulsion. I also included those senators who resigned or whose terms ended before their disciplinary reviews were completed. The last senator to resign while undergoing disciplinary review was Robert Packwood back in 1995.

Figure 3: Senators Accused of Bad Behavior But Not Expelled.

Figure 3: Senators Going Through Disciplinary Actions Other Than Expulsion.

For those who are interested, my workbook is here.

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5 Responses to Statistics of US Senate Disciplining Its Members

  1. RONAN A MANDRA says:

    Thanks, good timely info

    • mathscinotes says:

      We are hearing about harassment every day. I live in Minnesota and Al Franken is our senator – he has multiple accusers. We may need to have a senator or two expelled to get our government to take this problem seriously. In my corporate career, I have been appalled by the behavior of more executives than I care to count. I hope that things improve so that my granddaughter never has to worry about it.


      • Ronan A Mandra says:

        My wife works for a plaintiff litigation firm that handles, among other issues, sexual harassment. Her firm is almost never short on business. By the way, her firm does not charge the client but takes a cut of the awarded penalties, if any that result from either mediation, court cases or out of court settlements.

        Hopefully, it will be a better world in the future.

  2. Carrell R Killebrew says:

    Expulsion is considered to be generally insupportable for all cases other than treasonous activity, or bribery/corruption in office, thus the historical statistics that you note.

    Refusal to seat (or "unseating") is subject to the limitations of Powell v. McCormack the basis of which are the Constitutional requirements for age, citizenship, or residency. Basically the courts take the position that officials are elected by voters who know what they are getting, or should know. Past crimes, personal beliefs, and behavior which Congress may object to doesn't allow Congress to void the results of an election.

    A quirk of US law is that in general the validity of an election is not governed by federal law, but by state law.

    If Roy Moore had been elected, the ability of Congress and the Senate to prevent him from taking office was effectively non-existent. It made great press, but that was all it was.

    • mathscinotes says:

      Thanks for the excellent comment. Clearly, secession qualifies as treason, hence the all the expulsions during the Civil War. For a democracy, it does seem that the voters in a state should control the quality of the candidates sent to Washington.


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