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United States Senate Censure Cases

Article I, section 5 of the United States Constitution provides that "Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member." Among the ways in which the Senate has disciplined its members is censure, sometimes referred to as condemnation or denouncement. Censure is a formal statement of disapproval in the form of a resolution that is adopted by majority vote. The term “censure” is not found in the Constitution, and the word does not have to appear in the resolution. A censure does not remove a senator from office nor does it deny to a senator his or her rights or privileges. Since 1789 the Senate has censured nine of its members for conduct that senators determined to be inappropriate or detrimental to the Senate.

DateName (Party-State)ChargeResultVote
1811Jan 2, 1811 Timothy Pickering (F-MA) Reading confidential documents in open Senate session before an injunction of secrecy was removed. Censured 20-7
1844May 10, 1844 Benjamin Tappan (D-OH) Releasing to the New York Evening Post a copy of President John Tyler's message to the Senate on April 22, 1844 regarding the treaty of annexation between the U.S. and the Republic of Texas. Censured 38-7
1902Feb 28, 1902 Benjamin R. Tillman (D-SC) & John L. McLaurin (D-SC) Fighting in the Senate chamber on Feb 22, 1902. Censured & Suspended* 54-12; 22 not voting
1929Nov 4, 1929 Hiram Bingham (R-CT) Employing as a Senate staff member Charles Eyanson, who was simultaneously employed by the Manufacturers Association of Connecticut. Eyanson was hired to assist Bingham on tariff legislation. The issue broadened into the question of the government employing dollar-a-year-men. Condemned 54-22; 18 not voting
1954Dec 2, 1954 Joseph R. McCarthy (R-WI) 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. Condemned 67-22
1967Jun 23, 1967 Thomas J. Dodd (D-CT) Use of his office (1961-1965) to convert campaign funds to his personal benefit. Conduct unbecoming a senator. Censured 92-5
1979Oct 11, 1979 Herman E. Talmadge (D-GA) Improper financial conduct (1973-1978), accepting reimbursements of $43, 435.83 for official expenses not incurred, and improper reporting of campaign receipts and expenditures. Denounced 81-15
1990Jul 25, 1990 David F. Durenberger (R-MN) Unethical conduct in personal business dealings, Senate reimbursements, and using campaign contributions for personal use. Denounced 96-0
*Each was censured and suspended retroactively, for six days. This incident led to the adoption of Rule XX governing the conduct of debate in the Chamber.