Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Censure Of The President, And An Even More Unusual Punishment

Reps. Steve King (R-Nutjob) and Raul Labrador (R-Who?) want Congress to issue a formal censure of President Obama for his executive-order immigration reforms, as a way around impeaching him:

"I think we should censure the president of the United States," Labrador said on CBS, days after Obama announced his actions. "I think it’s unfortunate that he did this, I think we need to lay out clearly why this is unlawful."

But there's a problem. An impeachment is a criminal indictment by the House of Representatives, subject to conviction or acquittal by the Senate. Thus sayeth the Constitution (Article II, Section 4). By contrast, a censure of the president would be in every meaningful way a "bill of attainder," i.e., an act of Congress declaring someone guilty of a crime, without any sort of trial. The Constitution explicitly prohibits bills of attainder (Article I, Section 9). Impeachment and removal from office are effectively the only way to punish a bad president, and the Constitution lays out the details of how it is to be done. Without this restriction, no president would have time for anything except defending herself/himself against a rampaging opposition party's bills of attainder.

So Reps. King and Labrador are proposing a bill of attainder inflicting unspecified punishments on a duly elected President. "I think it’s unfortunate that [they] did this."

And as for me, I think a toilet plunger should be shoved into the pie‑hole of each of these representatives, to protect the nation from the crap spewing forth therefrom... but the Constitution makes no mention of, indeed never even implies, a citizen's right to plug the mouths of spewing legislators, however urgent the need. I guess we'll have to tolerate the spewing.

Lordy, those wingnuts surely know their Constitution, don't they? [/sarcasm]

9 comments:

  1. Censure would be a simple resolution with no legal punishment requiring no concurrence from the Senate or President, so I don't think it would be a bill of attainder. It would just be a hissy fit, even less meaningful than their 40 repeals of Obamacare.

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    Replies
    1. Read the TPM post, ntodd. There are some students of the Constitution who believe that it confers no authority on Congress to impose formal censure on a sitting president. I suppose they can pass some sort of sense-of-the-House resolution with absolutely no effect on the president, but you have to admit that would serve mainly to make the House look even sillier than it does already.

      I'm all for an actual formal impeachment. I can't imagine even a GOP-dominated Senate following through with a conviction; that would be political suicide. So I support the Republican effort to impeach with the likely resulting burden falling heavily on the Republican Senate. Let's have done with all the whining and let the GOP put its efforts where its mouth is... and take the consequences. What's the worst that can happen? a revolution? and the consequences if the GOPers don't do it: um, a revolution? Damned if we do, etc. I'd rather be damned if I do than if I don't.

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    2. I found the following doggerel I wrote in 1998, before the Clinton impeachment:

      ----------
      In 1992, when he was the Bush administration solicitor general,
      [Kenneth] Starr himself argued to the Supreme Court in a case involving
      a judicial impeachment that Congress, if it chose, could
      impeach a president for poisoning his neighbor’s cat.

      (from: House’s Challenge: Define ‘Impeachable’,
      By Ruth Marcus and Juliet Eilperin
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Tuesday, September 8, 1998; Page A1)

            Hillary Keeps Tabs on Bill
               while
            Ken Applies his Shoes to Socks

      The evil, ancient Kenneth Starr,
      His face bespectacled and flabby,
      Would bring the Prez before the bar
      For feeding arsenic to Tabby.

      Indeed, than such a lowly slime
      Who poisons Puss, there’s none obscener;
      Now that, indeed, would be high crime,
      And he who did it, Mr. Meaner!

      But surely, Clinton’s interest
      In Pussy’s naught to do with strychnine,
      Bill thinks he is with nine WIVES blessed…
      Can’t marry nine? well, still he’ll prick nine!

      Whatever vows Bill may have breached,
      It’s Hil, not Ken, of whom he’s scared…
      Although he may not be impeached,
      I think he’s apt to be impaired!

      - SB the YDD
      ----------

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    3. "Read the TPM post, ntodd. There are some students of the Constitution who believe that it confers no authority on Congress to impose formal censure on a sitting president. "

      I have.

      http://www.dohiyimir.org/2014/12/censureship.html

      It ain't a BoA without punishment, and there's precedent for a simple resolution expressing the collective sense of the chamber.

      Delete
    4. OK, ntodd. I give up. You win.

      Delete
    5. ... but FTR, quoting myself in the comment to which you replied,

      "I suppose they can pass some sort of sense-of-the-House resolution with absolutely no effect on the president,"

      Tell me how that, in substance, is one iota different from what you said.

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    6. "Tell me how that, in substance, is one iota different from what you said"

      It isn't, but that's the point. The Constitution doesn't forbid such things, and that's all censure is--an expression of the collective sense of the chamber. If they tried to attach actual legal consequences, then it would be repugnant to the Constitution, but nobody is proposing that!

      Delete
  2. Censure is just a statement saying "you done bad!" read into the Congressional Record. If there is no punishment involved it's not legally anything at all except a statement, and statements are protected by the 1st Amendment. The first Presidential censure was of President Andrew Jackson in 1834, so we aren't exactly talking about a new concept here... but it's also a meaningless one. When the Democrats regained control of Congress in part because of the Whigs censuring Jackson, they promptly passed a resolution of UN-censure that went back and crossed out the motion of censure that had been read into the Congressional Record. All of which, plus $2, will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

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    Replies
    1. BadTux, see my "you-win" reply to ntodd. Goes for you too,

      (Comment modified to reflect additional inserted comment above.)

      Delete

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