A citizen’s guide to expelling Ted Cruz

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Ted Cruz is one of the major proponents of the “Big Lie” that Donald Trump really won the election, and clearly played a role in inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. “I think Ted Cruz would want us to do this,” said one of the insurrectionists. Even after the insurrection left several people dead, including a Capitol police officer, Cruz still joined seven other Republican senators in voting against certifying the election results. 

Ted Cruz isn’t up for reelection until 2024, but is there any way to get him out of office before then? Well, yes. The Senate can expel its own members per the Constitution, and it’s happened to 15 senators. 

Of those 15, all but one were expelled for supporting the Confederacy. The first and only non-Confederate senator to be expelled was William Blount, a land speculator who conspired with the British to seize territory from Spain in the 1790s. Since expulsion has mostly been used against seditionists, it’s a fitting punishment considering Ted Cruz’s actions. 

The process begins when senators refer a complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee. In the case of Ted Cruz, this has already occurred. Should the Ethics Committee decide to take up the matter, they will form an investigatory subcommittee that will hold hearings and gather evidence. Once that is done they will vote on whether the senator in question committed the actions they are accused of and then they will vote on recommendations. The report and its recommendations, which may include expulsion, are then referred to the entire Senate body for a vote.

That’s where things get tricky. Like removing a president from office, expelling a senator requires a two-thirds supermajority per the Constitution. 

Would 17 Republicans cross the aisle and vote to expel Ted Cruz? Cruz is notoriously unpopular among his fellow senators, even his Republican colleagues — “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,” joked Lindsey Graham once. That said, it appears unlikely that 17 Republicans will vote to convict Trump of incitement of insurrection, and it would be very odd if GOP senators voted to acquit Trump but expel one of their own for similar charges. Expelling Ted Cruz might get some Republican support from senators like Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse, but would likely fall short of the two thirds supermajority. 

Another potential punishment Ted Cruz could face would be censure, which only requires a simple majority. However, censure is little more than a strong condemnation and has few practical effects. Still, censure would put Cruz’s name on a very short list in the history books, a list that so far has only nine senators. Perhaps the most famous senator to be censured (so far) is Joseph McCarthy who was censured in 1954 for his anti-communist witch hunts. Fittingly, Ted Cruz has often been compared to Mccarthy. 

A final remedy would be to strip Ted Cruz of his committee assignments. This was recently done to Rep. Steve King after the Iowa congressman made sympathetic comments regarding white nationalism. Losing committee assignments means a major loss of power and influence, as committees are where the bulk of Congress’ work occurs. A senator without committee assignments would likely either resign or (as happened in Steve King’s case) lose reelection. 

However, committee assignments are doled out by the leadership of each party. The Democrats can’t simply kick Ted Cruz out of committees even though they are in the majority. Only the Senate GOP leaders can do that, and while Mitch McConnell may have harsh words for the insurrection he has yet to demonstrate the will to take serious action in disciplining his own senators. 

So getting rid of Ted Cruz may be a long shot, but if you want to do something you should call the members of the Senate Ethics Committee and urge them to take up the complaint that’s already been filed. An investigation, even if it doesn’t result in expulsion, could at least make Ted Cruz’s crimes against democracy clear for all to see, and might make him sweat a little. 

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

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