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The House’s Refusal to Seat Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. of New York

January 10, 1967
The House’s Refusal to Seat Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. of New York Image courtesy of Library of Congress Representative Adam Clayton Powell of New York served as chairman of the Education and Labor Committee.
On this date, the House of Representatives refused to seat Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. of New York in the 90th Congress (1967–1969), by a vote of 363 to 65. On the opening day of the new Congress, the House rejected the initial resolution to seat Powell, pending an internal investigation; it instead approved an alternate measure to temporarily deny Powell his seat for five weeks while a nine-member bipartisan special committee examined the charges against the New York Representative. Beleaguered by a myriad of allegations of personal and financial misconduct, Powell defended his actions when he spoke to his colleagues on the House Floor. “My conscience is clean,” he asserted. “I am in God’s hands and your hands. All I hope is that you have a good sleep tonight.” After the vote, Powell greeted a group of supporters who had gathered on the Capitol steps to protest the proceedings. On March 1, 1967, after the special committee recommended several punishments for Powell, including censure, the House instead voted 307 to 116 to exclude him from the 90th Congress. Less than six weeks later, Powell’s constituents overwhelmingly returned him to the House in a special election to fill his own vacancy. The Supreme Court vindicated Powell in June 1969 ruling that the House acted unconstitutionally by excluding him from the 90th Congress.

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