The attacks on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 have emphasized the need for voters to be vigilant in electing only politicians with the highest integrity. Our Founders designed the Constitution to help ensure that political candidates were men of integrity and stated that these politicians should only stay in office if they behaved well. Members of Congress from both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives have been fomenting lies and inciting voters to act illegally. Our individual ability to demand that our representatives in Congress remain ethical is limited.
When the Founders were designing the Constitution, they were primarily concerned with building a government that would last. They made a mistake when they formed Const. From USA Art. I, Sec. 6, cl. 1, known as a speech or debate clause, (1) which grants members of Congress immunity for their conduct during the session. The United States Supreme Court has held that Congress is immune from civil lawsuits and some crimes. Although the Founders did not grant Congress immunity to commit the offenses of violation of public order, felony, or treason, the United States Supreme Court has severely limited the ability of prosecutors to bring criminal charges against members of Congress. This protection against civil and criminal penalties causes congressmen to act inappropriately. Being alone, we have few legal recourse to persuade our representatives to adhere to ethical and legal standards.
The Constitution gives each house of Congress the power to make rules and discipline other members, but it is seldom seen or heard that Congress has expelled a member of Congress for misconduct. Party loyalty and other considerations create an atmosphere in which ethical standards are not met or not enforced. As a result of the limited systems of checks and balances for members of Congress, they become less ethical every year. If state political parties were more organized, they would have the ability to band together to persuade congressmen to abide by the law and ethical standards.
Political parties in all states should encourage their members to formally join the state political party, uniting large blocks of voters who may have the power of a lobbyist. Each member’s contact information can be used to send a monthly message to your party trying to make consistent messages to your representative of what you want them to support. A message for your state senator or representative stating: “We have 2,000,000 voters willing to vote for a politician who will uphold ethical standards by indicting US Senator _____ for inciting violence.. “A large and united political party that actively seeks the ethical standards of our politicians will get results. In general, people do not like to be disturbed too much, so it will only work if party messages are limited to once a month. , 12 a year.
On July 3, 1980, Congress enacted the “Code of Ethics for Government Service.” (2) It has ten ethical standards, such as putting the country before a political party and other admirable requirements. However, a United States attorney issued a legal opinion in court, holding that this law could not be enforced in a civil or criminal context. That lawyer gutted those ethical standards that have no way to be enforced. I believe I have read that this US Attorney who wrote that legal opinion was unanimously nominated as a judge by Congress. Congress also rarely upholds the law or ethical standards for members of the Executive who commit perjury or adequately ensures that the Court upholds the Constitution. The blame for the attacks on the United States Capitol falls on the American people because we did not participate actively enough to make good changes in our government. The digital age with ultra-fast communications and press releases from political parties seeking party organizing and unification gives us the ability to stick together to ensure that our government does not embarrass us or our nation further.
(1) Todd Garvey, (December 1, 2017), “Understanding the Speech or Debate Clause” Congressional Research Service (CRS). Federation of American Scientists (FAS). R45043. [p. 6]. Publicly available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45043.pdf
(2) LII Staff, (1980), “Appendix to Part 73 – Code of Ethics for Government Service” LII / Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School. Publicly available at https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/34/appendix-to_part_73