OTTAWA -- Senators have voted to force Sen. Patrick Brazeau, who is facing criminal charges, to take a leave of absence from the upper chamber.

The Conservative motion passed today by senators calls on Brazeau to step aside temporarily in order "to protect the dignity and reputation of the Senate and the public trust and confidence in Parliament."

Brazeau made a surprise appearance in the chamber just prior to the vote on the motion, which also gives a Senate committee the power to cut off his access to his expense account.

The 38-year-old Brazeau, who is currently free on bail, was charged with assault and sexual assault after he was arrested last week at his home in Gatineau, Que.

His leave of absence would remain in effect until the case is resolved.

If convicted, Brazeau could either be suspended or expelled by the Senate, or he could choose to resign.