Can Cory Booker Really Be Expelled From Senate?

The debate over expulsion just got a lot less dramatic
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2018 1:32 PM CDT
Updated Sep 6, 2018 3:59 PM CDT
Can Cory Booker Really Be Expelled From Senate?
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

"This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an 'I am Spartacus' moment." That line from Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey showed just how dramatic the Brett Kavanaugh hearings became Thursday morning as he and fellow Democrats continued to complain about withheld or off-limits documents. Booker drew big headlines with an early statement that, in the name of transparency, he was going to release Kavanaugh documents deemed "committee classified." That set off a debate on whether he could theoretically be expelled from the Senate for doing so—a debate that "fizzled" later when it emerged that the documents he made public actually had been authorized for release, notes NPR. The details:

  • The beef, explained: Booker thinks Republicans are keeping way too many documents off limits in the hearing, especially ones that have nothing to do with national security. He called the vetting process by a lawyer for George W. Bush (Kavanaugh used to work in the Bush White House) a "bit of a sham" and vowed to circumvent it, per the AP
  • The documents: Booker and fellow Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono each posted documents online (here and here) Thursday morning. Turns out, those posted documents weren't classified after all—they had been authorized for release about 4am Eastern, reports the Washington Post. However, it's possible that Booker did, in fact, violate Senate rules Wednesday night when he talked about those "committee confidential" emails.
  • Expulsion? On Thursday, Booker vowed to "knowingly violate" Senate rules in posting the documents. As tweeted by White House press official Rah Shah (before the status of the documents was clear), Senate rules state that any senator who divulges "the secret or confidential business of the Senate" can be expelled. Still, only 15 senators have been expelled in history, and none since the Civil War, notes It requires a two-thirds majority vote, meaning 15 Democrats would have to vote against Booker.

  • Grandstanding? After Booker said he was willing to accept the consequences, even expulsion, he got into an exchange with GOP Sen. John Cornyn and essentially dared him to bring expulsion charges. Watch the back forth via the Austin American-Statesman. Cornyn shot back: "Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or of the confidentiality of the documents that we are privy to,” a reference to Booker's expected run in 2020. He called Booker's move to ignore the confidential status of the documents "outrageous."
  • In support: Other Democrats backed Booker, either at the hearing or online. "I stand with my colleague @CoryBooker," tweeted Sen. Kamala Harris. "The American people have a right to see Kavanaugh's full record." From Chuck Schumer: "I stand w/ Judiciary Committee Democrats who are well within their rights to release these very important documents that a former Kavanaugh deputy designed as 'committee confidential.'"
  • From the right: The website Twitchy was rounding up tweets roasting Booker, especially for his Spartacus comparison and for the praise he collected for posting not-so-classified documents. "At the end of the day, Cory is more concerned with ‘resisting’ and making a spectacle of himself than he is anything else," declares the site.
(Read more Cory Booker stories.)

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