If the bill passes, it would only be the third House expulsion in the past century.
A mob of domestic terrorists attempted to seize the Capitol Building on January 6, resulting in five deaths. The insurrectionists had attended a rally earlier that day headlined by President Donald Trump, at which Trump congressional ally Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL5) also spoke.
“I’ve got a message that I need you to take to your heart and take back home — and along the way, stop at the Capitol,” Rep. Brooks said in his speech while wearing a “Fire Pelosi” hat. “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!”
“Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you: are you willing to do the same? Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?” Brooks closed his speech with the sentence: “The fight begins today!”
What the resolution does
The House can expel any of its own members, though the punishment has only occurred five times in American history. Three instances were for treason during the Civil War, the fourth was former Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-PA1) for bribery in 1980, and the fifth was former Rep. James Traficant (D-OH17) for various financial crimes including racketeering and fraud in 2002.
Expulsion is so rare that, as far as GovTrack was able to locate, there hasn’t even been an attempt by the House to expel one of its own members since Rep. Traficant in 2002… until now. A new resolution would expel Mo Brooks from the House of Representatives.
What supporters say
Supporters argue that Rep. Brooks’ words recklessly and dangerous spurred on a violent attack upon America’s center of government.
“Rep. Brooks has repeatedly promoted President Trump’s baseless and dangerous election theft claims, culminating in a profanity-laden speech to an angry mob of supporters of Trump that included calls to march on the U.S. Capitol,” Rep. Johnson said in a press release. “Soon after those remarks, that crowd turned to attack the Capitol, seizing control of the building, damaging government property, and endangering the lives of the Vice President, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, members of Congress, and staff on the Hill.”
What opponents say
Rep. Brooks himself counters that his speech’s phrases including “kick ass,” “fight,” and potentially “giving your lives” in a violent clash were metaphorical, not intended as literal calls to violence.
“January 6 was supposed to be a day of great debate on the floors of the House and Senate about voter fraud and election theft that is supposed to propel America to more honest or accurate elections. Instead, our message was hijacked by people whose illegal breach of the Capitol did a great disservice to our cause and America,” Rep. Brooks said in a press release. “I take great offense at anyone who suggests I am so politically inexperienced as to want to torpedo my honest and accurate election system effort I spent months fighting on.”
“So that I am unambiguously clear, American citizens’ recourse is at the ballot box,” Rep. Brooks continued. “Maybe this comment will deter socialist Democrats and fake news media from again shrilly shouting false claims of violence advocacy.”
Several aspects of Brooks’ quote are of dubious accuracy. Nobody has claimed he’s politically inexperienced; he has served in Congress since 2011. Most of the Democrats who have called for Brooks’ ouster are not self-identified socialists; indeed, lead sponsor Rep. Johnson has explicitly denied being a socialist. And while Brooks claimed in that subsequent press release that “American citizens’ recourse is at the ballot box,” he made no similar statement during his actual speech at the rally.
Odds of passage
The Constitution requires that expulsion from either the House or Senate requires a two-thirds vote in the chamber. The other chamber doesn’t vote on the matter, meaning only a House vote is required to expel a House member (and vice versa for the Senate).
There’s also a resolution to merely censure Brooks. Censure is the second-highest punishment the House can bestow upon one of its own members, a formal condemnation that nonetheless allows the members to continue serving in office. Censure has occurred six times in the past 100 years, versus only twice in the past 100 years for expulsion.
The censure resolution was introduced on January 11 by Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ7), and has attracted 32 cosponsors, all Democrats. It awaits a potential vote in the House Ethics Committee. Democrats hold the House majority, but not by a two-thirds margin, making expulsion unlikely to pass.