Everything is back to normal on Capitol Hill.
The House is functioning again after more than three weeks. It finally elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.
And that means lawmakers are back to doing what they do best: attacking one another and debating whether to expel or sanction fellow colleagues.
Sure, moments after the House finally installed Johnson, it approved a measure to condemn Hamas. The House also plowed through the annual energy & water spending bill.
But the real action came when Members planned to take revenge on one another.
In other words, business as usual for Congress.
If you are scoring at home, the House must wrestle this week with two efforts to censure a lawmaker and one potential expulsion.
The House floor had barely opened last Thursday morning when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., introduced a special resolution to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. Greene’s resolution claims Tlaib “exhibited her hatred for America” by “blaming America for allowing the deaths of Palestinian babies at the hands of Israel.”
Greene also asserted that Tlaib “led an insurrection at the United States Capitol complex” by supporting an anti-Israel rally. Scores of demonstrators took over the Rotunda in the Cannon House Office Building, shouting, singing and demanding a ceasefire to the war in the Middle East. The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) eventually arrested more than 300 demonstrators who entered the office buildings legally – but were cited for illegally protesting at the Capitol complex. The demonstrators were exceedingly boisterous. As loud and verbally disruptive as any protest on Capitol Hill. But non-violent. Greene tried to equate the protest to the incursion at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, during the certification of the Electoral College in a Joint Session of Congress.
The House had barely caught its breath when Rep. Becca Balint, D-Vt., took to the floor as well.
Not to be outdone, Balint proposed censuring Greene for “fanning the flames of racism, anti-Semitism, hate speech against the LBGTQ community, Islamophobia, Asian hate, xenophobia and other forms of hate,” said Balint.
She also claimed that Greene perpetuated “conspiracy theories related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, which sought to halt the peaceful transfer of power.”
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) describes censure as “a formal, majority vote in the House on a resolution disapproving of a Member’s conduct. Censure is the second-most serious form of discipline in the House, falling between reprimand and expulsion. A Member must stand in the well of the House chamber and face a verbal rebuke by the House Speaker when censured.
The House has censured 26 members in history. But the frequency of censures increased in recent years. The House didn’t censure anyone between 1983 and 2010. Lawmakers voted to censure former Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., in 2010 for failing to pay taxes and misusing his office.
In 2021, the House voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for posting a video which depicted him violently attacking President Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.). And in June, the House censured Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for his charges about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
A censure resolution is “privileged” and the House must consider it right away or within two legislative days. It’s one of the highest orders of business before the House.
Some Democrats are utterly offended at some of the comments by Tlaib about Israel. Others are upset that she was one of nine Democrats who voted against a resolution on the House floor to support Israel. It’s unclear if some Democrats might even vote to censure their controversial Democratic colleague.
But other Democrats had enough of Greene.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene was removed from her committees for believing in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and talking about Jewish space lasers,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich. “She is not a champion of the Jewish people. And I say that as a Jewish Representative. So it’s a little rich for her to be looking to censure Rashida Tlaib.”
Then there are efforts to actually expel two Members. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., didn’t get in on the floor action last week, introducing active, privileged resolutions to punish her colleagues. But Malliotakis has pushed for nearly a month to expel Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., for pulling a false fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building in late September, prompting an evacuation.
Bowman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge late last week.
“I have to pay a $1,000 fine and stay out of trouble for three months,” said Bowman. “It wasn’t a conscious decision to do something wrong.”
But Malliotakis and other Republicans have zeroed in on Bowman’s background as an elementary school teacher and principal.
“If this was his school, he would have suspended or expelled the student,” said Malliotakis. “So that is exactly the type of action that we as Members of Congress should take.”
Washington, DC, Superior Court Judge Dorsey Jones also required Bowman to write a letter of apology to the USCP.
That set off Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla.
“What are we? In 7th grade?” asked an incredulous Donalds.
Donalds said that some of those prosecuted in connection with the Capitol riot were charged with disrupting an official proceeding of Congress. He believes Bowman should face the same thing. Donalds added that “judges in the District of Columbia wield the system differently depending on your political party.”
However, don’t expect any action on efforts to expel Bowman soon.
But that is not the case with embattled Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. Santos faces a very real prospect of expulsion this week. GOP members of from New York House delegation have had enough of Santos and his various false identities, lies and now a batch of criminal charges.
“Geroge Santos engaged in election fraud throughout his 2022 campaign by deceiving voters regarding his biography, defrauding donors and engaging in other illegal campaign behavior,” said Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y. “George Santos is not fit to serve his constituents as a United States Representative.”
But it’s far from clear if other Republicans would vote to expel Santos or if the House would even directly vote on the expulsion measure.
“Here’s the reality,” said Johnson on Fox. “We have a four seat majority in the House of Representatives. It is possible that number may be reduced even more in the coming weeks and months. So we’ll have what may be the most razor-thin majority in the history of the Congress. We have no margin for error. George Santos is afforded due process.”
Johnson noted that Santos has not yet been convicted. He’s been charged.
“If we’re expelling people from Congress who have been accused, that’s a problem,” said Johnson.
So if the Santos measure comes up, someone could very well move to “table” or kill the resolution. That just requires a simple majority. And some Republicans may prefer that option. They will have dodged a tough vote again on Santos. They may not like Santos. But don’t have to judge Santos. The vote to table is one parliamentary step removed from voting to expel. Some Republicans are mindful of the “math” and the narrowness of the GOP’s majority which Johnson speaks of.
But if a motion to table fails, the House actually votes on expulsion.
Expulsions are rare in the House. The House last expelled a member in 2002. The House has only expelled five Members in history. Three of them were linked to siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War. The bar to expel is two-thirds. It’s possible that all Democrats and many Republicans could vote to expel Santos if the House fails to table the measure. Some Republicans would not want to be on the record as voting to support Santos.
So, now that there’s a Speaker, lawmakers are letting off pent-up anger. Members are fighting. Sometimes even with people on their own side as exhibited with the measures to punish Tlaib and Santos. Everyone is brawling.
That means the House is back to normal.