Yes, a sitting member of Congress can be removed from office

Rep. George Santos has said he won’t resign despite revelations he lied about his background. We VERIFY how an elected House member can be removed.

On Jan. 10, New York state and local Republican leaders called for U.S. House Representative George Santos (R-N.Y.) to resign immediately. Santos has been accused of lying about his resume and family heritage and is facing multiple federal investigations over his personal and campaign finances.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said the House Ethics Committee will investigate any claims made against Santos, but has not said if he will encourage the newly elected Santos to resign his position. 

Since news of his alleged fabrications, some people online have been calling for him to be removed from office. Online petitions have been shared calling for his removal; one has more than 33,000 signatures. 

THE QUESTION

Can a sitting member of Congress be removed from office?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, a sitting member of Congress can be removed from office.

WHAT WE FOUND

Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution says that a two-thirds majority vote in the House is needed to expel one of its members. The rules for removing a member are the same in the Senate.

Expulsion by a two-thirds vote is the only way to remove a sitting member of either chamber of Congress, unless they resign or die. 

The Constitution doesn’t provide a mechanism for voters or anyone else to recall a U.S. Congress member, and to date no members have been recalled, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) says. This differs from elected officials at the state and local level, where there are rules and procedures in place to recall officers like governors. 

Only 20 members of Congress have been expelled – 18 of them for treason – and that happened mostly during the Civil War. The other two expulsions were members who were convicted on corruption charges, the most recent being in 2002, according to House archives.

There are other types of discipline Congress can issue to a member for alleged misconduct that don’t include expulsion, the CRS says. The following disciplinary actions can be taken in both the House and the Senate: 

  • Censure: A censure is a formal statement of disapproval and requires a formal, majority vote on a resolution disapproving a member’s conduct. 
  • Reprimand: Another statement of disapproval, but a lesser punishment than a censure. A reprimand also requires a formal vote by a majority in the House.
  • “Letter of Reproval”: Issued by the House Ethics Committee; a letter that indicates a member committed misconduct, but it did not rise to the level of formal punishment.
  • If the alleged misconduct was financial, a member could have to pay monetary restitution.
  • Loss of seniority, which could include being stripped of committee seats.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

Follow Us

Want something VERIFIED?

Text: 202-410-8808

Related Stories