The Hitchhiker's Guide to Discipline in the House

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Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution grants both the House and Senate the right to “discipline” its members.

“Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member,” it says.

The three, recognized forms of discipline are reprimand, censure and expulsion. Lawmakers may also be fined, which often accompanies one of the recognized methods of punishment. In addition, lawmakers can sanction fellow members in other ways. For instance, the Ethics Committee “admonished” former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, for his transgressions.

Expulsion is pretty clear. Censure is the equivalent of a reprimand on steroids.

The House formally began using the term reprimand in 1976. Reprimand is considered to be the least-severe of the three, formal modes of punishment in the House.

A Congressional Research Service report indicates that “reprimand expressly involves a lesser level of disapproval of a Member than that of Censure, and is thus a less severe rebuke by the institution.”

Under a reprimand, a lawmaker must stand in the well of the House and be reprimanded by the Speaker.

Recent instances of reprimands have involved former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.