Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called Monday for Senate investigations into the Capitol breach, and the behavior of his peers Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) to circumvent the protections Congress enjoys.
“Because Congress has protections from the Department of Justice under separation of powers, specifically the Speech and Debate Clause, significant investigation will need to be done in the Senate,” Whitehouse wrote in a statement. “Because of massive potential conflict of interest, Senators Cruz, Hawley, and Johnson (at least) need to be off all relevant committees reviewing this matter until the investigation of their role is complete.”
The Speech and Debate clause is intended to maintain legislative independence by shielding members from “intimidation by the executive” or a “hostile judiciary.”
In this case, as Whitehouse points out, it may serve to protect senators accused of inciting the insurrection from the ramification of their actions.
He suggested instead to task the Senate — naming the Judiciary, Homeland Security and Rules Committees — with investigating what went wrong and considering “the expulsion, or censure and punishment” of Cruz, Hawley and “perhaps others.”
It’s a fresh suggestion as Democrats in Congress are searching for ways to hold President Donald Trump — and their Republican peers — accountable for the violence at the Capitol in the waning days of the administration and with a mostly uncooperative Republican Party.
Democrats have suggested the gamut of everything from resignation to the 25th Amendment to impeachment to deal with Trump, and are currently homing in on the third option, with a couple of show votes on a resolution supporting the 25th (without Vice President Mike Pence’s cooperation, use of the 25th amendment seems dead in the water).
Many have condemned Cruz and Hawley in particular, and called for their resignations.