Timeline: Congress punishes its own

Congress has typically used three kinds of punishments for members who break its rules. The lightest is "reprimand," which has been used nine times in the House and six times by the Senate ethics committee. The next most severe is "censure," used 22 times by the House and nine times by the Senate.

The most serious penalty, expulsion from Congress itself, has only been used five times in the House and 15 times by the Senate. And the bulk of those cases came during the Civil War era, when members were kicked out for supporting the Confederacy.

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GRAPHIC: Mark S. Luckie / The Washington Post - Nov. 29, 2010.