Seven Senate Democrats have filed an ethics complaint against Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) over their announcements that they would vote to overturn the election results on January 6 and their role in inciting the attempted coup staged by Trump militants that happened that day.
Democrats sent a letter to Senate ethics committee leaders, Chairman Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Vice Chairman James Lankford (R-Oklahoma). The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), calls on the Senate ethics committee to launch an investigation into Cruz and Hawley’s actions surrounding January 6.
When Cruz and Hawley announced their intentions to attempt to overturn the electoral vote count, “they amplified claims of election fraud that had resulted in threats of violence against state and local officials around the country,” the letter sent by the Democrats reads. “By proceeding with their objections to the electors after the violent attack, Senators Cruz and Hawley lent legitimacy to the mob’s cause and made future violence more likely.”
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The letter also lays out tweets, letters and other forms of evidence to show that further investigation is necessary into whether or not there were deeper connections between Cruz and Hawley and the Trump militants who violently stormed the Capitol, such as donations or logistical coordination between the Senators and the mob.
The Democratic Senators also call on the committee to offer recommendations for disciplinary action against Cruz and Hawley, including expulsion or censure if necessary. Alongside Senator Whitehouse, the letter was also signed by Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Such an ethics request, filed by a relatively large cohort, is unusual for Congress, MSNBC writes — though, so is an attempted coup.
Progressive activists have also been calling on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) to deny committee seats to Hawley, Cruz and others who may have been involved in the attempt to overturn the results of the election. Schumer and McConnell are in the process of hashing out the power-sharing agreement in the Senate that would determine committee assignments.
These lawmakers “have no place in the U.S. Senate and most certainly should not be rewarded for their deadly attacks on democracy with seats leading important committees in the next Congress,” said Rahna Epting, executive director of progressive advocacy group MoveOn, in a statement on Thursday.
Hawley, in response to the Democrats’ letter, said that the move was divisive, and against Joe Biden’s calls for unity. Hawley and Cruz, however, have faced criticism from both sides of the aisle. The two Senators were joined by six other Senate Republicans in voting to overturn the election on January 6.
Congress has the sole power to discipline its members, but that power is used very rarely. Only 15 Senators have been expelled since 1789, one of which was for involvement in a conspiracy that contradicted Senatorial duties, and all 14 of the others were for involvement with the Confederacy during the Civil War. Expulsion requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate and censure requires a simple majority.
House Democrats have also called for Republican Representatives who voted to overturn the election results to face investigation and possible expulsion. Last week, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri) filed a resolution to investigate and potentially expel the 139 House Republicans who had voted to challenge the certification of the electoral results. Bush, whose resolution names Hawley and Cruz as culprits, tweeted Thursday night that she thinks “Ted Cruz needs to resign and take Josh Hawley with him.”