What is the 14th Amendment? Congress mulls legislation to remove those who 'engaged in insurrection'

Amid the continuing fallout from last week’s deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, Democrats are forging ahead with legislation to remove Republican lawmakers for inciting the riot.

While there has been focus on President Trump’s possible impeachment and the use of the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, some House Democrats say they will invoke the 14th Amendment to call for the removal of Trump and congressional Republicans who helped incite the insurrection through their push to invalidate the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“If we allow insurrection against the United States with impunity, with no accountability, we are inviting it to happen again,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” Sunday.

Police clash with Trump' supporters
Police clash with militant Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. (Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

What is the 14th Amendment?

The 14th Amendment was adopted just after the Civil War to set terms for the readmission of former Confederate states into the Union.

What does it say?

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says no elected official “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion”:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Donald Trump
Trump speaking at a "March to Save America" rally in Washington on Wednesday. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

How would it be used here?

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., on Monday introduced legislation seeking to expel Republican members of Congress whose challenge to the electoral results helped incite the mob at the Capitol.

According to Bush’s proposal, lawmakers “who sought to overturn the 2020 Presidential election violated their oath of office to uphold the Constitution” and should face sanctions, including removal.

“I believe the Republican members of Congress who have incited this domestic terror attack through their attempts to overturn the election must face consequences,” she said before introducing the bill. “They have broken their sacred oath of office.”

Josh Hawley
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., gestures toward a crowd of President Trump's supporters gathered outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Francis Chung/E&E News and Politico via AP Images)

Which lawmakers are alleged to have engaged in insurrection?

On the House side, the focus has been on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who continued to question the election results after the attack on the Capitol, and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who told Trump supporters at the “March to Save America” rally before the riot that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”

On the Senate side, Democrats are intent on holding Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., accountable for leading the Electoral College challenge that became the focus of the violent siege.

Hawley was photographed giving a fist pump to Trump supporters shortly before they stormed the U.S. Capitol. And he pushed ahead with the electoral vote challenge even after the building was cleared.

Hawley has already experienced fallout for his role in fomenting Wednesday’s mayhem. In an editorial, the Kansas City Star said the first-term senator has “blood on his hands.” And Simon & Schuster canceled the publication of his upcoming book over “his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”

The Houston Chronicle, the second-largest newspaper in Texas, has called on Cruz to resign.

Ted Cruz, right, and Josh Hawley
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

What are the chances of the 14th Amendment legislation succeeding?

While it might pass the Democratic-controlled House, the prospects of Bush’s bill passing the Senate with the two-thirds majority it needs are remote.

More likely to succeed are motions currently being discussed to censure Brooks and other members of the GOP.

“Censure in the case of someone like Brooks is very easy,” Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., told the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast.

If passed, it would require Brooks to stand in the well of the House and listen to a formal reading of his condemnation by his House colleagues.

“It’s a scarlet letter,” Malinowski said.


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