Pride in a political position has led to a censure upon a national leader. No explanation could justify the leader’s opposition to the members of Congress representing the citizens’ interest. Resentful tension led to a condemnation.
The Transgressions Not Overlooked
Not every step across moral lines leaves a leader no choice to recover their respect. A departure from ordinary conduct in office seen as a failure in political duty does. Poor handling of political negotiations over a bill due to oversight can be managed without formal sanction. Indifference to the will of the people, as adopted by the governing body, can not be overlooked.
In each case, the act has departed from an accepted standard for a politician’s conduct. President Andrew Jackson, with a single leader’s vote, vetoed legislation that would preserve the existence of the Bank of the United States. The Senate, including his presidential opponent Henry Clay, considered the bank the people’s national treasure. Jackson later refused to hand over to Clay a paper read to his supporters.
Senator Joseph McCarthy stood accused of abusing the Subcommittee of Privileges and Elections and not cooperating with an investigation. The strong leaders unceasing stiffness caused too much discord to approve.
A Formal Disapproval
Fellow representatives confer to decide a censure, or not. When the choice is censure, an act is denounced before peers and the public to prevent support for a prideful gesture. The purpose is not to oust the politician from office, but instead to resolve the moral question on the conduct.
The lack of conformity to behoove the decided requests of the fellow members for high fidelity has caused a fall from a full grace. On March 28, 1834, the Senate convened and censured the President. The refusal to hand over provided a plain motive for condemning the refusal to continue the bank, and the withdrawal of federal funds.
Nine members of the senate have been censured. On December 2, 1954, the senators voted 67 to 22 to condemn McCarthy’s conduct.
In Washington politics, those that fall may again rise. For Jackson, Democrats spent 3 years taking control of the Senate, and then, once able, expunged the unfavorable resolution from the record. He enjoyed plenty of strong support while in the seat. Senator McCarthy never folded. The ruthless character lasted until the day he died in office.
The scales, typically, rebalance. Today, the typical case is a tabled attempt at censure. Not since 1983 has there been an official censure. During the Bush Administration, Senator Russell Feingold drafted a resolution to censure the second President in history; this time for a practice of warrantless wiretaps. Fifty three percent of Senators opposed. The public’s trust in the President did not fade.
In 2008, Representative John Boehner led an effort to condemn the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel, for renting New York apartments. Use of one for a campaign office did not conform to a rent-stabilization rule requiring use for a residence. Acceptance of the apartments was said to be a banned gift. The predicament ended, however, when 254 representatives voted against censure, and only 138 for. Rangel returned to the leadership routine.
Citizens may debate the justness of censure, but the censured live in American memories as an example of the importance of great differences in opinion. Departures from the expected are dealt with solemnly. Political justice is restored.
Don Wolfensberger, Upon Further Review, Senate Censure Makes No Sense, Sir (May 15, 2006), at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Senate Virtual Reference Library, Censure