List of United States senators expelled or censured

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The United States Constitution gives the Senate the power to expel any member by a two-thirds vote. [1] This is distinct from the power over impeachment trials and convictions that the Senate has over executive and judicial federal officials: the Senate ruled in 1798 that senators could not be impeached, but only expelled, while debating a possible impeachment trial for William Blount, who had already been expelled. [2]


Expulsion has not occurred since the Civil War. [1] Censure, a lesser punishment which represents a formal statement of disapproval, has been more common in the 19th century. Although censure carries no formal punishment, only one senator (Benjamin R. Tillman) of the nine to be censured has ever been re-elected. Unlike the House of Representatives, which also disciplines by reprimand, a censure is the weakest form of discipline the Senate issues.

Expelled senators

1797 William Blount Democratic-Republican Tennessee Treason and conspiracy to incite the Creek and Cherokee Indians to assist Great Britain in invading Spanish Florida.
1861 James M. Mason Democratic Virginia Supporting Confederate rebellion; Sebastian's expulsion was posthumously reversed in 1877.
Robert M. T. Hunter Democratic
Thomas L. Clingman Democratic North Carolina
Thomas Bragg Democratic
James Chesnut, Jr. Democratic South Carolina
Alfred O. P. Nicholson Democratic Tennessee
William K. Sebastian Democratic Arkansas
Charles B. Mitchel Democratic
John Hemphill Democratic Texas
Louis Wigfall Democratic
John C. Breckinridge Democratic Kentucky
1862 Trusten Polk Democratic Missouri
Waldo P. Johnson Democratic
Jesse D. Bright Democratic Indiana

Expulsion proceedings not resulting in expulsion

Many expulsion proceedings have been begun by the Senate that did not lead to expulsion. In most cases, the expulsion failed to secure the necessary two-thirds vote, in other cases the senator in question resigned while proceedings were taking place, and some proceedings ended when a senator died or his term expired.

1808 John Smith Democratic-Republican Ohio Not expelledAssisted Aaron Burr's western expedition; resigned two weeks after expulsion failed
1856 Henry Mower Rice Democratic Minnesota Not expelledCharged with corruption
1862 Lazarus W. Powell Democratic Kentucky Not expelledAccused of supporting the Confederate rebellion
1862 James F. Simmons Republican Rhode Island ResignedCharged with corruption
1873 James W. Patterson Republican New Hampshire Term expiredCharged with corruption
1893 William N. Roach Democratic North Dakota Not expelledCharged with embezzlement; Senate determined that charges were too far in the past
1905 John H. Mitchell Republican Oregon Died during proceedingsCharged with corruption
1906 Joseph R. Burton Republican Kansas ResignedConvicted (upheld by the Supreme Court) for receiving compensation for intervening with a federal agency
1907 Reed Smoot Republican Utah Not expelledSenate committee asserted that Smoot, as a Mormon, belonged to a religion incompatible with US law; Senate found 43-27 that this was not relevant
1919 Robert M. La Follette, Sr. Republican Wisconsin Not expelledCharged with disloyalty for a speech opposing entry into World War I; Senate found 50-21 that this was not warranted
1922 Truman Handy Newberry Republican Michigan ResignedConvicted of election fraud (later overturned) for excessive spending in a primary election
1924 Burton K. Wheeler Democratic Montana Not expelledIndicted for conflict of interest after serving in legal cases to which the United States was a party; exonerated by Senate 56-5
1934 John H. Overton Democratic Louisiana Not expelledBoth investigated for electoral fraud
Huey Long
1942 William Langer Republican North Dakota Not expelledCharged with corruption and moral turpitude while Governor of North Dakota; full senate voted against expulsion 52-30
1982 Harrison A. Williams Democratic New Jersey ResignedConvicted of bribery and conspiracy in the Abscam scandal; resigned before a vote by the full Senate
1995 Bob Packwood Republican Oregon ResignedCharged with sexual misconduct and abuse of power; resigned before Senate vote
2011 John Ensign Republican Nevada ResignedCharged with financial improprieties stemming from an extramarital affair; resigned before Senate vote

Censured senators

1811 Timothy Pickering Federalist Massachusetts Reading confidential documents in open Senate session before an injunction of secrecy was removed.
1844 Benjamin Tappan Democratic Ohio Released to the New York Evening Post a copy of President John Tyler's message to the Senate regarding the treaty of annexation between the United States and the Republic of Texas.
1902 Benjamin R. Tillman Democratic South Carolina Fighting on the Senate floor with each other.
John L. McLaurin
1929 Hiram Bingham Republican Connecticut Employed Charles Eyanson as a Senate staff member while Eyanson was employed by the Manufacturers Association of Connecticut.
1954 Joseph McCarthy Republican Wisconsin Refusal to cooperate with and verbal abuse of the members of the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections during a 1952 investigation of his conduct, and of the Select Committee to Study Censure.
1967 Thomas J. Dodd Democratic Connecticut Use of his office to convert campaign funds to his personal benefit, and conduct unbecoming a senator.
1979 Herman Talmadge Democratic Georgia Improper financial conduct, accepting reimbursements for official expenses not incurred, and improper reporting of campaign receipts and expenditures. Talmadge was technically "denounced," rather than censured.
1990 David Durenberger Republican Minnesota Unethical conduct relating to reimbursement of Senate expenses and acceptance of outside payments and gifts.

See also

Federal politicians:

State and local politics:

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  1. 1 2 Brockell, Gillian (January 5, 2021). "The senators who were expelled after refusing to accept Lincoln's election". The Washington Post . Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  2. "Senate historical minutes". U.S. Senate. Archived from the original on 17 November 2002. Retrieved 3 July 2009.