The case for expelling Doug Mastriano from office
Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano’s apparent participation in and work to plan, mobilize and incite the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, after he swore multiple oaths to defend the Constitution, means he is likely ineligible to serve in office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
The January 6th attack on the Capitol was the culmination of an unprecedented and concerted attempt to prevent the peaceful transition of power through illegal and violent means. Senator Mastriano’s conduct leading up to and on January 6 means that his continued presence in government is a threat to the institution he serves and to our democracy. Senator Mastriano should be investigated by the Pennsylvania State Senate Ethics Committee for his role in the insurrection and be held accountable by the State Senate through its disciplinary process, whether by admonishment, censure or expulsion.
Expelling an elected official, even for planning, aiding and participating in an insurrection, is a serious step. But accountability for those who engaged in the insurrection on January 6, 2021 is our country’s best path forward—our democracy demands that state legislatures examine whether members like Doug Mastriano are unfit to serve in the democracy they sought to overthrow.
While January 6th was an unprecedented attack on our democracy, it is not the first time our country has had to reckon with elected leaders who tried to overthrow the government. After the Civil War, too, our democracy faced the daunting task of protecting itself from people who staged a rebellion against it. Facing that existential crisis, the country ratified Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, commonly known as the Disqualification Clause.
The Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land” and it establishes basic qualifications around age, citizenship and residency for federal offices like president and member of Congress. These qualifications are widely understood and respected, but the Disqualification Clause is lesser-known. This 150 year old clause bars any person from holding federal, state, or local office who took an “oath…to support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution. That means not engaging in insurrection after swearing an oath on the Constitution is the only qualification for state or local office in the U.S. Constitution.
The facts provide a strong argument that Doug Mastriano is disqualified from holding public office under the Disqualification Clause. As detailed in the full report, those facts indicate Mastriano:
- helped to mobilize and incite the mob ahead of January 6th, including by spending thousands of dollars in campaign funds to charter buses to transport Trump supporters to Washington, D.C. for the day’s events
- played a pivotal role in the fake electors scheme, a plot which the January 6th Select Committee concluded “led directly to the violence” on January 6th
- personally joined the mob within the restricted area of the Capitol grounds on January 6th before ultimately leaving
His colleagues in the Pennsylvania State Senate can—and should—investigate his conduct to develop additional facts and, if it is determined that he does not meet the constitutional qualifications for office, refer the matter to the Senate Ethics Committee to consider the appropriate penalties available under the rules of the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Only by holding insurrectionists accountable can we hope to prevent future violent attacks on the U.S. Capitol and in state capitals like Harrisburg. Accountability has always been a key defining feature of democracy, and it is one that is more crucial than ever. Holding Doug Mastriano accountable for his reprehensible actions surrounding January 6th is necessary to effectively move forward as a nation. He should be investigated for engaging in insurrection and, if allegations are substantiated, held accountable by the Pennsylvania Senate, up to and including expulsion from office. The Constitution demands it.