“Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question
    of the privileges of the House”

Why not move to expel DeLay right now? Let the Republicans go on record in favor of keeping their corrupt Majority Leader.

It’s been thirty years since my brief term as a House staffer, so my memory of Jefferson’s Manual is dim, but if I recall correctly a motion to expel a member is a Constitutionally privileged motion, and as such can be offered at any time.

Now, for example.

Would it pass? Almost certainly not. But getting all, or vitually all, of the Republicans in the House on record as supporting not just corruption but selling out to the Russians would be a triumph in itself.

And if some Republicans actually voted for the motion, so much the better. DeLay would have the choice of not retaliating and looking weak or retaliating and looking like a thug.

It looks as if DeLay’s demise is inevitable, which is something I wouldn’t have said even a week ago. His own side is starting to rat him out.

Presumbly, he’ll eventually be told to get out of the way; the lucrative post-official opportunities available to Republicans have the big advantage that they can be used to make embarrassing problems go away. (Imagine if there’d been a Democratic version of Heritage to which Wright and Rostenkowski could have comfortably decamped, as Gingrich and Livingstone did.)

The Democrats’ challenge is to make his fall as expensive as possible for the Republicans. It seems to me that an immediate motion to expel — before DeLay is ready to resign — would be a good start.


The House Rules contain two seemingly contradictory provisions, but I think the second in effect allows a way around the first.

On the one hand,

An expulsion resolution when offered may be laid on the table or referred to committee before the proponent is recognized to debate it.

But on the other,

A resolution providing that the House immediately proceed to consider whether a Member should be expelled presents a question of privilege.

Questions of privilege go to the head of the queue.

So, if the rules say what I think they say, any Member can at any time rise, interrupting other pending business if necessary, and ask the Speaker to put the question whether to consider a motion to expel to a vote. According to the Congressional Research Service, if the moving member is the Minority Leader, the motion is debated immediately for at least one hour, after which the debate may be continued or the previous question ordered, but in any case the motion eventually comes to a vote. If another member offers the motion, the same thing happens, but at a time of the Speaker’s choosing within two days rather than immediately.

What’s especially lovely about this procedure (again, assuming I’m reading the rules correctly) is that the first vote isn’t on the resolution of expulsion itself, but merely on whether to debate that resolution. So Republicans voting against it wouldn’t even be able to defend themselvse by saying they wanted to hear the evidence first; their “No” votes would be votes against hearing the evidence.

The recent stacking of the Republican side of the Ethics Committee with DeLay loyalists, and the new rule requiring one Republican vote before that committee can even start an inquiry, will make hash of any argument that the matter ought to be considered by the Ethics Committee first. Right now, there is no functioning Ethics Committee, since it has been unable to agree on its own rules.

Update Recognition at last! Stuart O’Neill at Political Dogfight likes the idea. So does Oliver Willis.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com