Congress expelled 14 members in 1861 for supporting Confederacy

Will Trump's attempt to wrest a won presidency from Joe Biden find real resistance in Congress this week?

Americans are reeling from the release of tapes of President Donald Trump attempting to coerce Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn that state’s lawful election. 

Additionally, more than 140 Republican U.S. representatives and a dozen U.S. senators have publicly declared they plan to object to the Electoral College certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s November victory. 

Will President Donald Trump’s attempt to wrest a won presidency from newly-elected Joe Biden find some serious resistance from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week? We’ll certainly know soon. (Photos by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images, Joshua Roberts/Getty Images and by Erin Scott – Pool/Getty Images)

These activities have caused many to throw around words like “treason” and “sedition.” Moreover, the phrase “Do not sit the 140” is starting to trend on Twitter. But is it actually legal to refuse to allow the congresspeople to take their seats in the House? 

Well, USA Today did a fact check that found 11 senators and three members of the U.S. House of Representatives weren’t expelled from Congress for refusing to acknowledge Abraham Lincoln’s electoral win. Instead, the newspaper found the senators were expelled for supporting the Confederacy, not for opposing the election. 

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The senators were expelled in July 1861 for being engaged “in a conspiracy against the peace and union of the United States Government” for their support of the Confederacy, USA Today reports. 

According to the Constitution, “Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.”

Since 1789, only 15 senators have been expelled from Congress. Eleven of those cases took place during the Confederacy. 

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While many call for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to refuse to seat the 140 representatives who plan to vote against certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory this week, history shows that in 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Speaker of the House could not exclude a duly-elected candidate from the House. 

A duly-elected congressperson can only be removed with a two-thirds affirmative vote. 

Ironically, according to a blog post from Holland & Knight, a law firm that covered subject in December 2017, the Supreme Court prioritized the rights of the voters over those of the Congress. 

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