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Could Cory Booker actually be ousted from the Senate?

Could Cory Booker actually be ousted from the Senate?
[Photo: Keith Mellnick/AFGE/Flickr]

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey took a stand at Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court today, and there’s an off chance, albeit an unlikely one, that it will result in him being ousted from the Senate.

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In the hearing, Booker referenced a handful of documents and emails from Kavanaugh’s time as a White House counsel, during which Kavanaugh discussed racial profiling among other topics. The documents were reportedly marked “committee confidential,” but Booker couldn’t understand why they were confidential as they contained no personal information and posed no national security threat. When no one was able to give Booker a satisfactory answer, he announced he would release them.

“I am right now, before your process is finished, I am going to release the email about racial profiling,” Booker said. “I understand the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate.”

Booker tweeted out the 12 pages of emails, which were tied to discussions Kavanaugh had on racial inequality, including one email thread titled “racial profiling.” Shortly after Booker released the documents, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff released a block of new emails—previously marked “committee confidential”—that had been cleared for public release. The Booker released emails were included in that document dump. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) followed Booker’s lead, tweeting screenshots of an email thread from Kavanaugh regarding Native Hawaiian rights.

So could any of this actually result in Booker’s ouster? Typically speaking, it’s pretty hard to get kicked out of the U.S. Senate. Only 20 members of Congress have ever been expelled, according to the Senate’s website, and most of those had to do with the Civil War. Many senators have opted to resign instead of suffering the indignity of being ousted.

Practically speaking, most Congressional punishment comes in the form of censures, which entail no actual consequences other than a potential loss of leadership roles, or reprimands, which have even less of a real-world impact.

The process requires consensus: To fully oust a sitting senator, Article I, Section 5, of the United States Constitution says that expulsion requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Once that two-thirds requirement is met, the Constitution allows members to expel one of their own based on self-created rules, without consent from the House of Representatives. Since Republicans don’t have a 2/3 majority, it’s unlikely that Booker will be ousted for his actions.

That said, this particular iteration of the Senate seems to have a hard time even following its own rules these days, so who knows if they apply? In short, send the man a Hot Pocket, he may need it.

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