In-Depth: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, introduced this resolution to condemn and censure Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) for “his false retelling” of the Trump-Zelensky call during a congressional hearing, spreading false accusations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and concealing his dealings with the Ukraine whistleblower and lying about it to the American public:
“This week, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives will be put on record on Chairman Adam Schiff’s shameful conduct as a member of this distinguished body. Chairman Schiff deliberately misled the American people during a high-profile hearing last month, and he has persistently used his perch on a vital committee to spread falsehoods about President Trump. Chairman Schiff’s calculated words and actions over the past two years have brought this body into disrepute, and he must be held accountable. I urge all of my colleagues to condemn and censure Chairman Schiff to send a message that his reckless disregard for the truth will no longer be tolerated.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) spoke on the House floor in favor of censuring Schiff:
“We have the solemn duty to find the facts. To be stewards of the truth. It is the truth that must guide our work. When the truth is contorted, twisted, and disregarded, the American people lose. The fabric of our institution starts to erode. Sadly, that is exactly what is happening with the House Intelligence Committee under the Democrat leadership. It should not have come to this. On numerous occasions—as outlined in this resolution—the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has used his position to mislead the American people. But this resolution is about more than the actions of any one individual. When false evidence is entered into the official record or communicated directly to the American people, the People’s House loses the credibility it needs to function properly. If that credibility is not restored—if the American people cannot trust that the process will be fair and that information will be honestly shared—they will lose trust in the soundness of our system of government.”
After GOP members of the committee called out Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) for his misrepresentation of the Trump-Zelensky conversation, Schiff responded that his comments were intended “at least part in parody”:
“My summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least part in parody. The fact that’s not clear is a separate problem in and of itself. Of course, the president never said if you don’t understand me, I’m going to say it seven more times. My point is that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.”
This resolution has the support of 165 cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans.. An earlier version of the resolution, which was written before it became clear Schiff’s office had contact with the Ukraine whistleblower earlier than he’d acknowledged (language that was added to the latest version), has 135 cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans.
Of Note: Both chambers of Congress can use censure resolutions to formally disapprove of conduct by lawmakers or executive branch officials, such as the president. While it’s a more formal condemnation than a reprimand, censure is a less severe punishment than expulsion (which removes a member of Congress) and the impeachment process which can be used to remove federal officials.
Censure doesn’t carry any additional punishments for a censured lawmaker aside from the public humiliation of being formally and publicly admonished for their misconduct by colleagues. In the House, the offending representative is required to stand in the well of the chamber as the Speaker of the House reads the censure resolution aloud.
Censure resolutions (and other disciplinary motions) are privileged under the House rules, so the majority and minority leaders have the ability to call them up for a vote when the House isn’t attending to other business.
A total of 23 representatives and nine senators have been censured in U.S. history to date. The most recent censure in Congress occurred in 2010, when then-Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) was censured for a variety of misconduct, including misuse of congressional letterhead for fundraising; impermissible use of a rent-controlled facility for campaign headquarters; and filing inaccurate financial reports & federal tax returns.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: louisepalanker via Flickr / Creative Commons)