This oath is taken by newly-elected United States Senators:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

What recourse is available (and by whom) if a Senator violates this oath? (Say, by refusing to carry out some constitutionally defined duty.)

  • 2
    Can you please clarify which specific obligatory duty you consider consititutionally defined? The answer might depend on the context
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 20:30

2 Answers 2


The Senate can discipline its members for violation of Senate rules, up to and including expelling them. Their constituents can decline to reelect them. Other than that, no governmental entity can punish them for how they choose to perform legislative actions. They can be neither sued nor prosecuted for their legislative activity, per the Speech or Debate clause. "Legislative activity" is not every single thing they do; it's drawn somewhat narrowly, so things like meeting with constituents are not included while holding committee hearings is. But if Senators are performing their legislative duties in a way that the rest of the government doesn't like, they cannot be punished.

  • But what if the Senators are simply not performing their duties in any way, likeable or unlikeable?
    – DJohnM
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 19:21
  • 6
    @DJohnM Refusing to take legislative actions is itself a legislative action. They cannot be punished by anyone except their constituents and their house for that.
    – cpast
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 20:35

Failing to "support and defend the Constitution" would be a violation of the oath, but the only way to address it that I can see would be for the senate to vote to censure or expel the person involved. However, if this "failure" was also a crime, such as treason, insurrection, incitement to insurrection, or conspiracy, the Senator could be accused, tried, and possibly convicted just as any other person could be. It would be up to the Department of Justice, or possibly relevant state authorities, to decide to prosecute such a case.

You must log in to answer this question.

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