- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

Ohio Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. has been convicted of a long list of crimes of corruption, ranging from taking bribes to cheating on his taxes. He faces a sentence of up to three decades in prison for offenses that would make the denizens of the Clinton White House blush. But Traficant is unrepentant, and even plans to run for Congress this fall as an independent. According to Roll Call, when House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt suggested to Traficant that he resign, Traficant told Mr. Gephardt to perform a reproductive act upon himself. Congress has room for plenty of colorful characters, but it should have none for convicted felons. It is now up to the House leadership of both parties to move quickly on this matter, either by itself or through the Ethics Committee.
The proceedings of the Ethics Committee should be watched very closely. Rep. Steve LaTourette, one of Traficant's closest friends and allies, is on the committee and apparently has no plans to recuse himself from the panel's "inquiry" into whether Traficant should be expelled. He has indicated that he wants the committee to proceed at a snail's pace, with the panel proceeding through whatever laborious procedure it deems appropriate. With him there, the committee's deliberations could drag on for much too long. And, while House rules say that any member convicted of a felony should not vote, there is no way Traficant can be prevented from voting while the inquiry proceeds. There are vague reports that some members have threatened Traficant with expulsion if he tries to vote. But reliance on those cloakroom maneuvers is not a wise course for the House leadership.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert whom Traficant supported in his election as speaker has remained silent. So have the other Republican leaders, who seem content to let the coming Ethics Committee inquiry play out. But that could take weeks or months, and with every day's delay, GOP "leaders" will be less worthy of that label. At the very least, they should immediately call on Traficant to resign. If, as is likely, he does not, they should press the Ethics Committee to move without delay. They should also ask Mr. LaTourette to recuse himself from the Traficant proceedings, or remove him from the committee entirely.
The people of Akron and Youngstown, Ohio Traficant's constituents deserve a congressman who can vote. Any House member can file a privileged motion for expulsion, which would result in a floor vote within two days unless another member blocked it. Mr. Hastert should join Mr. Gephardt in offering Traficant the chance to resign. If he doesn't, the two of them should join in a privileged motion to expel him, and allow the House to cleanse itself of its most noticeable current stain.

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