Rashida Tlaib censured by Congress. What does censure mean?

In bipartisan fashion, the House of Representatives voted to censure Michigan’s Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib as she continued to defend comments widely considered as calling for Israel’s elimination. 

Twenty-two Democrats joined Republicans in a 234-188 vote late Tuesday, after Tlaib — the only Palestinian-American member of Congress — posted a video of Michigan protesters chanting “from the river to the sea,” part of a chant condemned by Jewish groups and the Anti-Defamation Legue as antisemitic.

But what does it mean to be censured in the House of Representatives and what effect does it have?

What is a censure?

A censure, according to the U.S. House, is a form of rebuke that “registers the House’s deep disapproval of member misconduct that, nevertheless, does not meet the threshold for expulsion.”

Generally, a censure is a condemnation of a member’s actions, statements or a combination of the two. It requires only a majority of members of the House to pass.

Upon approval by the majority, the censured lawmaker is supposed to stand in the well of the House chamber while the presiding officer reads the censure resolution. Tlaib was not required to stand in the well

A censure is viewed as more serious than a “reprimand,” which is another resolution House members can bring to the floor to punish fellow members.

Does censure come with any punishment?

No. A censure doesn’t result in the removal of a member from any committees or hamper his or her authority as a lawmaker in any way.

What is the history of censure in Congress?

Twenty-six members have been censured in the history of the House after Tlaib’s censure, for everything from bribery to sexual misconduct with a House page.

In 2021, for instance, GOP Rep. Paul Gosar was censured for posting an anime video depicting himself killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Biden.

Democrats tried to censure Rep. George Santos, who has been charged with conspiracy, false statements, wire fraud, falsification of records, aggravated identity theft and credit card fraud. The effort failed.

The first censure ever recorded was of Rep. William Stanbery in 1832 for insulting then-House Speaker Andrew Stevenson during a floor debate. The insult? Stanbery said that the speaker’s eye might be “too frequently turned from the chair you occupy toward the White House.”

Only five House members have ever been expelled, a move that requires two-thirds support.

— Caitlin Yilek contributed to this report 

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