When Bob Packwood Was Nearly Expelled From The Senate For Sexual Misconduct The last time the Senate Ethics Committee voted to expel a senator was 1995. The Packwood case is newly relevant in light of the allegations of sexual misconduct swirling around Congress.

When Bob Packwood Was Nearly Expelled From The Senate For Sexual Misconduct

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With allegations of sexual harassment and worse in Congress, the ethics committees in the House and Senate are suddenly getting a lot more attention. NPR's Tamara Keith has this look at the last time the Senate Ethics Committee voted to expel a Senator.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Every case is different, but change the names, and you might think this report from KATU-TV in Portland, Ore., was from today.


MARK HASS: Julie Williamson was a young staff assistant to Packwood.

JULIE WILLIAMSON: He came up behind me and kissed me on the neck. I was startled by that, finished the phone conversation, hung up the phone and turned and said to him, don't you ever do that again.

KEITH: This piece aired in November 1992 and was among numerous on-the-record accusations against former Senator Bob Packwood, a moderate Republican from Oregon.


HASS: The women making the charges say they're not used to being in this situation - their voices being heard just as clearly as the one coming from a U.S. senator.

KEITH: This prompted a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. Former Senator Barbara Mikulski was one of three Democrats on the committee.


BARBARA MIKULSKI: This isn't an attempt to pry. We're not the Senate select committee on voyeurism.

KEITH: The Ethics Committee is divided equally by party and operates confidentially. It's the same committee that would likely be called into service if Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore wins a special election next month. He's facing accusations, which he denies, of assault and other misconduct with teenage girls when Moore was in his 30s.

Democratic Senator Al Franken has himself asked for an ethics committee investigation of accusations from women who say he groped them. This could bring the most public attention the committee has gotten since the Packwood case in the early 1990s. At that time, there were serious questions about the Senate's ability to police itself. Mitch McConnell, who is now the Senate majority leader, delivered this speech on the Senate floor in 1993.


MITCH MCCONNELL: Are we up to the job? Can we through the instrument of the Ethics Committee impartially and thoroughly investigate incidences of misconduct by our colleagues? And will we give the committee the authority it needs to get the job done right?

KEITH: He was then one of the Republican members of the Ethics Committee and ultimately its chair. California Democrat Barbara Boxer entered the Senate that year in a wave of female lawmakers elected after the Anita Hill scandal.

BARBARA BOXER: I'm a freshman (laughter), and I'm waiting for the Ethics Committee to kick this guy out. And a year goes by. Two years go by. Still nothing happens.

KEITH: So Boxer began agitating for public hearings on the matter, though they never happened. Packwood had kept a diary of his time in the Senate, including salacious entries like this. Quote, "if she didn't want me to feather her nest, why did she come into the Xerox room?"

The thousands of pages of diary entries also included shady arrangements with lobbyists and were eventually Packwood's undoing. Packwood did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Nearly three years after the allegations first went public, the Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to expel Packwood from the Senate. Here's McConnell again.


MCCONNELL: In at least some of the 18 instances of which we find Senator Packwood guilty, he used physical coercion against his victims, frightening them and causing them severe emotional distress. This cannot be tolerated in the United States Senate.

KEITH: Before the full Senate could vote on whether to expel Packwood, he resigned.


BOB PACKWOOD: It is the honorable thing to do for this country, for this Senate.

KEITH: Boxer, who retired this year, says she thought Packwood's case represented a sea change. It didn't.

BOXER: It's stunning to me that we would be in this situation today after Anita Hill, after Bob Packwood, after Bill Clinton. It just is stunning to me that the people who are abusing their power don't understand that it's wrong, it's immoral and it's dangerous.

KEITH: But this time, this moment feels different, she says. Tamara Keith, NPR News.


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