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Friday, March 15, 2013

Senate Select Committee on Ethics: A Brief History of Its Evolution and Jurisdiction

Jacob R. Straus
Analyst on the Congress

The United States Constitution provides each House of Congress with the sole authority to establish rules and punish and expel Members. From 1789 to 1964, the Senate dealt individually with cases of disciplinary action against Members, often forming ad hoc committees to investigate and make recommendations when acts of wrongdoing were brought to the chamber’s attention. Events of the 1960s, including the investigation of Secretary to the Majority Robert G. “Bobby” Baker, for alleged corruption and influence peddling, prompted the creation of a permanent ethics committee and the writing of a Code of Conduct for Members, officers, and staff of the Senate.

The Senate Select Committee on Ethics was first established in 1964. This bipartisan, six-member committee investigates alleged violations of the rules of the Senate and recommends disciplinary actions. In the 95
th Congress (1977-1978), the Senate expanded the committee’s jurisdiction and altered its procedures to implement revisions to the Senate Code of Official Conduct. Also, to reflect these changes the committee was renamed the Select Committee on Ethics.

This report briefly outlines the background of ethics enforcement in the Senate, including the creation of the Select Committee on Standards and Conduct and the subsequent renaming of the committee as the Select Committee on Ethics. The report also provides a brief overview of the Senate Code of Conduct and on the Select Committee’s current jurisdiction and procedures.

For additional information on ethics in the Senate, please refer to CRS Report RL30764, Enforcement of Congressional Rules of Conduct: An Historical Overview, by Jacob R. Straus; CRS Report RL31126, Lobbying Congress: An Overview of Legal Provisions and Congressional Ethics Rules, by Jack Maskell; and CRS Report 93-875, Expulsion and Censure Actions Taken by the Full Senate Against Members, by Jack Maskell.

Date of Report: March 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: RL30650
Price: $29.95

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