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Status of a Member of the House Who Has Been Indicted for or Convicted of a Felony

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Publication Date: October 2007

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL33229

Topic: Government (Public officials)

Abstract:

There are no federal statutes or Rules of the House of Representatives that directly affect the status of a Member of Congress who has been indicted for a crime that constitutes a felony. No rights or privileges are forfeited under the Constitution, statutory law, or the Rules of the House merely upon an indictment for an offense, prior to an establishment of guilt under the judicial system. Thus, under House Rules, an indicted Member may continue to participate in congressional proceedings and considerations; under the Constitution, a person under indictment is not disqualified from being a Member of or a candidate for re-election to Congress. Internal party rules in the House, however, now require an indicted chairman or ranking Member of a House committee, or a member of the House party leadership, to temporarily step aside from his or her leadership or chairmanship position.

Members of Congress, furthermore, do not automatically forfeit their offices upon conviction of a crime that constitutes a felony. No express constitutional disability or "disqualification" from Congress exists for the conviction of a crime, other than under the Fourteenth Amendment for certain treasonous conduct by someone who has taken an oath of office to support the Constitution. Members of the House are, however, instructed by House Rule not to vote in committee or on the House floor once they have been convicted of a crime for which the punishment may be two or more years imprisonment. Furthermore, under party rules, Members may lose their chairmanships of committees or ranking member status upon conviction of a felony. Conviction of certain crimes may subject -- and has subjected in the past -- Members of the House to internal legislative disciplinary proceedings, including resolutions of reprimand and censure, as well as expulsion from the House upon approval of two-thirds of the Members. Neither expulsion nor conviction of a crime (except for certain national security offenses) would lead to the forfeiture of a Member's federal pension.