What exactly is a ‘censure’, and why are Sen. Romney and the Utah GOP being associated with term?

Local Politics

After violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol today, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, joins other senators as they return to the House chamber to continue the joint session of the House and Senate and count the Electoral College votes cast in November’s election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

UTAH (ABC4) – While Utah’s Republican party has made no indication that it will censure Senator Mitt Romney, rumblings on social media have catapulted a not-to-often discussed term to the forefront.

Sen. Romney was among a group of seven GOP senators who voted alongside Democrats to impeach former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial. Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee, voted to acquit Trump.

After the Saturday vote, there was speculation that Sen. Romney would be censured by the Utah Republican Party. Other senators, like Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, have been censured by their states’ party.

However, the Utah Republican Party issued a statement Monday, saying in part, “Our senators have both been criticized for their vote. The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on “unanimity of thought.” There is power in our differences as a political party, and we look forward to each senator explaining their votes to the people of Utah.”

According to a Google Form circulating on social media, “Senator Willard Mitt Romney has failed, and continues to fail, to represent the average conservative Utah Republican voter.”

The form also says Romney “prioritized his personal and political vendetta against President Donald J. Trump ahead of the Constitution of the United States, the interest of We, the People, and the advancement of the Republican Platform,” adding that he “embarrassed the State of Utah” when he voted to impeach Trump during his first trial.

At the time of this story’s publishing, there are over 2,500 signatures on the form.

While there is no other indication who the form is connected to, the Utah Republican Party shared the following statement with ABC4:

“Any national petitions making the rounds online have nothing to do with the Utah Republican Party.  As a party, we are focused entirely on unifying around Republican Party principles, as discussed in our official statement.”

What is a censure?

According to the U.S. Senate, a censure is less severe than an expulsion, sometimes being referred to as a condemnation or denouncement, and does not remove the senator from office.

“It is a formal statement of disapproval, however, that can have a powerful psychologial effect on a member and his/her relationship in the Senate. In 1834, the Senate censured President Andrew Jackson — the first and only time the Senate censured a president. Since 1789 the Senate has censured nine of its members.”

As the Senate explains, the power to censure is not a power provided by the Constitution. Instead, the House and Senate have adopted internal rules allowing them to draft and approve censure resolutions that can be adopted by either chamber of Congress.

According to PBS, a censure provides a public record disapproving of an official’s actions, but does not remove them from office.

In January, Utah Representative John Curtis introduced a concurrent resolution to Congress to censure then-President Trump rather than impeach him.

Who can be censured?

According to the Senate, any member of Congress, the President, federal judges, and other government officials.

The most recent censure by the Senate was that of David Durenberger, a Republican from Minnesota. According to records from the Senate, the Select Committee on Ethics received a complaint from 39 members of the Minnesota Bar alleging financial improperities by Durenberger in 1988.

He was ultimately charged with unethical conduct in personal business dealings, Senate reimbursements, and using campaign contributions for personal use in 1990 by a 96-0 vote. The Senate reports that he was denounced.

In 1954, Wisconsin Republican Joseph R. McCarthy, well-known for his involvement in the ‘Red Scare’ and alleging numerous communists and Soviets had infiltrated the U.S. federal government, was censured following a 67-22 vote. He was censured on charges of abuse and noncooperation with the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections during a 1952 investigation of his conduct, for abuse of the Select Committee to Study Censure.

The Senate reports McCarthy was ultimately condemned, adding, “McCarthy tried to appear unaffected by the censure, but it became apparent that the Senate vote had robbed him of his power and status. As his political fortunes waned, so did his health. He died in 1957.”

In the House of Representatives, the most recent Congress-level censure was Charles Rangle in 2010. The New York Democrat was charged with misuse of congressional letterhead for fundraising; impermissible use of a rent-controlled facility for campaign headquarters; and inaccurate financial reports and federal tax returns by a 333-79 vote.

According to the House, the first member censured was William Stanbery of Ohio who insulted Speaker of the House Andrew Stevenson during floor debate in the 1830s. He was censured after a 93-44 vote.

Sen. Romney’s term ends in 2025.

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