Charles Rangel censured on House floor - what does censure mean?

After Charles Rangel was censured many are asking what does censure mean, and how does it differ from other forms of political punishment?

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Representative Charles Rangel (D) looks down as he faces reporters at a news conference after the US House of Representatives censured him for ethics violations, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday. Because it's such a rare occurrence, many Americans don't know what censure means.

Congressman Charles Rangel (D) of New York was summoned to the well of the House floor while Speaker Nancy Pelosi read a censure resolution passed by a 333 to 79 vote, Thursday.

Though Rep. Rangel had urged the House to choose a reprimand over a censure, Congress voted to censure the 15-term Representative for 11 ethics violations.

But what does censure mean, and how different is it from other forms of political punishment?

Charles Rangel censure vote: Five others the House has slapped down

The lesser of the forms of punishment is a reprimand. A reprimand is considered a slap on the wrist and can be given in private and even in a letter.

Censure, on the other hand, is a form of public shaming in which the politician must stand before his peers to listen to the censure resolution as it is read out against him for all to hear.

This is what Rangel had to endure on Thursday.

However, there is ultimately no further difference between a reprimand and a censure. The politician does not lose his title, stature, or power to vote.

That is not to say censures are taken lightly. The very next step in punishment is expulsion. Congress has not doled out censures willy-nilly either. Rangel was only the 23rd Congressman in history to receive the punishment, and the last censure was in 1983.

Though there are no particular legal consequences associated with censure, in this case Rangel was asked to stand in the House well as the censure was read and he was told to pay restitution and provide proof of payment for unpaid taxes relating to the 11 ethics violations. But perhaps the biggest blow to the Congressman was his forced resignation from the esteemed Ways and Means Committee.

Charles Rangel censure vote: Five others the House has slapped down

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