CNN's Small group of House Democrats discussed censure over impeachment ahead of looming vote made me wonder if they have to necessarily choose between these two.

In general, are these exclusive? If Congress moves ahead with one based on a set of issues or "offenses", can they not also do the other? Could impeachment and censure of a US president for the same set of issues proceed independently, either roughly concurrently, or sequentially?

There may of course be practicalities that make concurrence challenging, people can't be in two meeting rooms at the same time for example; I'm not asking about those kinds of practical constraints.

Different, but somewhat related: Can a US president be “re-impeached” by a new Congress on the same charges? Or would double jeopardy apply?

  • 2
    Double Jeopardy doesn't apply to impeachments, but even if it did, since we're not talking about statues, the charge could be worded slightly differently yet cover the same act(s). – dandavis Dec 11 '19 at 18:08

The way Impeachment is being wielded today is more of a "super-censure". It's highly unlikely that the Senate would have enough votes for removal under any Impeachment proceedings (current or not). Without removal, the "sting" of Impeachment is merely reduced to a censure.

Technically speaking, however, there is nothing in the Constitution that says it cannot be done, mainly because the Constitution doesn't cover Censure.

The United States Constitution specifically grants impeachment and conviction powers, respectively, to the House of Representatives and Senate. It also grants both congressional bodies the power to expel their own members, though it does not mention censure. Congress adopted a resolution allowing censure, which is "stronger than a simple rebuke, but not as strong as expulsion." In general, each house of Congress is responsible for invoking censure against its own members; censure against other government officials is not common. Because censure is not specifically mentioned as the accepted form of reprimand, many censure actions against members of Congress may be listed officially as rebuke, condemnation, or denouncement.

The House is a self-governing body and can pass any resolutions it sees fit. They could Censure you as many times as they like.


Could impeachment and censure of a US president for the same set of issues proceed independently, either roughly concurrently, or sequentially?

There’s no procedural reason why not, but there is a practical one: censure would be a far lesser punishment than impeachment. For the same people to argue for both impeachment and censure at the same time for the same reasons would undermine their own argument that impeachment is the appropriate remedy for whatever malfeasance that they seek to punish.

To argue for impeachment and censure at the same time is to say, simultaneously, that you think the President did something so bad that it is worthy of removal from office, and that exact same thing the President did is bad but is not worthy of removal from office.

Those two premises are contradictory. The natural way for people opposed to impeachment to resolve the contradiction is to point out that if censure is an adequate remedy then impeachment is unnecessary and excessive. The natural way to for people opposed to censure to resolve that contradiction is to argue that impeachment is the appropriate remedy. The natural way for people opposed to both (e.g. Republicans in Congress) is to simply point out that the contradiction is proof that Democrats don’t really know what they want to do, and then subsequently argue that the indecision happened because these impeachment hearings are not a serious attempt at addressing misconduct, but simply an attempt to slap Donald Trump with anything that sticks. The Democrats are fully aware of that particular counter-argument, which is why there is pressure in their caucus to pick one remedy (e.g. impeachment) and discourage pursuit of the other (e.g censure).

So, yes, Congress could do both at the same time, but it would undermine achieving both goals and therefore be self-defeating.

  • Q.E.D. it seems, thanks! – uhoh Dec 12 '19 at 21:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .