U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has been one of President Donald Trump’s strongest and most vocal supporters throughout his presidential term. After last week’s violence at the Capitol, several of the president’s allies reversed course, dropping their own support for efforts to overturn the November vote. Cruz, however, has remained loyal.
That support has inspired many people, including some of his own colleagues in Congress, to say that Cruz should resign or be removed from office along with the president, who was impeached on Wednesday.
Removing Cruz, however, isn’t likely to happen.
Certainly, support for one’s president is hardly cause for removal from office. In addition, despite his unwavering support, Cruz generally hasn’t endorsed any violence or violation of law. Even as he continued to back efforts to nullify the popular vote, the senator has decried last week’s violence.
More importantly, removing a senator from office against his will is a difficult prospect. Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution enables each chamber of Congress to “punish its members for disorderly behavior and, with concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.” In the entire history of Congress, the Senate has purged 15 members, most of them at the beginning of the Civil War when they expelled representatives of states that had seceded from the Union.
A recall from within the state is even less likely, as any mechanism to make it happen would be dubious at best.
When the Constitution originally was written, senators were selected by state legislators, who had full power of seating and removing them. That changed with the 1913 ratification of the 17th Amendment, which gave voters the right to fill the Senate as well as the House. The amendment is vague, however, simply saying that “The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.”
In Texas that is the House of Representatives, where a voter can file a lawsuit in district court seeking a member’s removal. The court would decide if the office holder has committed a crime that warrants removal from office.
Texas voters do not have the right of initiative and referendum, the right to petition for a general election to decide an issue such as the recall of an elected official.
With our state legislature in session at this time, a lawmaker could offer a bill that would create a way to recall U.S. senators, offer initiative and referendum or create a mechanism to enable the people at large to remove a lawmaker from office. It’s doubtful that any legislature would do so, however.
It should never be easy to do something so drastic as remove a U.S. senator. Passions that arise in the heat of a moment can cause knee-jerk actions that could create more harm than good.
Ted Cruz is up for reelection in 2024, and he is expected to run for president that year as well. In the interim reason should overtake passion, and voters will have clearer heads when they decide whether or not he should remain in office.