- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rep. Michael Grimm announced his resignation from Congress late Monday, reversing his pledge last week to fight on after he pleaded guilty to a felony tax evasion charge.

The New York Republican will give up his seat next week, just as the new Congress is sworn in. Mr. Grimm won re-election in November, even with the federal indictment hanging over him, but will now leave the seat to be filled in a special election.

It was the second black eye this week for the House GOP, which also found itself scrambling to address an admission by its third-ranking leader, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, that he attended a meeting more than a decade ago with a group with ties to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Mr. Scalise said he regretted the decision from his past, and GOP leaders said it was a mistake but didn’t reflect who he is now.

They offered no similar second chances to Mr. Grimm, however, saying his decision to resign was the right one.

Mr. Grimm had been indicted in April on 20 counts stemming from his involvement with a health restaurant he co-owned before entering Congress. He pleaded guilty last week to a single count of tax evasion, and immediately afterward vowed to keep his seat in the new Congress.

But this week he reversed himself, saying he will step down effective Jan. 5, a day before he would have been sworn in.

“The events which led to this day did not break my spirit, nor the will of the voters,” Mr. Grimm said in a statement issued shortly before midnight Monday evening. “However, I do not believe that I can continue to be 100% effective in the next Congress, and therefore, out of respect for the office and the people I so proudly represent, it is time for me to start the next chapter of my life.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner, who had remained quiet on the matter following the guilty plea, said Tuesday that Mr. Grimm made the “honorable decision” to step down from his seat in Congress.

The resignation triggers a special election in the Staten Island-based 11th Congressional District, with a date to be set by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Republican and Democratic Party organizations, not primary voters, will pick their respective nominees for the election.

Possible candidates on the Republican side include state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who has been in the news recently as the prosecuting attorney in the case that did not yield an indictment in the choking death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who had been stopped by police over the summer on suspicion of illegally selling cigarettes.

On the Democratic side, former Rep. Michael McMahon, who lost to Mr. Grimm in 2010, and Assemblyman Michael Cusick have been mentioned as possible candidates.

Mr. Grimm won by five points in 2012 even as the district went for President Obama, and, despite the looming indictment, he won by 13 points this year against Democratic nominee Domenic Recchia.

News of Mr. Grimm’s resignation and Mr. Scalise’s 2002 appearance at an event hosted by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) weren’t the headlines Republicans had hoped for as they prepare to take the reins in both chambers of Congress for the first time since 2007.

Mr. Scalise said Monday he didn’t remember speaking at the event and if he knew today what the group was about, he wouldn’t go. Civil rights groups have labeled EURO a hate group.

“I didn’t know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group,” he told the Times-Picayune. “For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous.”

On Tuesday, he said that the group was one of many he addressed at the time as a state representative trying to build support for legislation on cutting government spending, eliminating corruption, and stopping tax hikes and that he “wholeheartedly” condemns its views.

“It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold,” he said in a statement. “I am very disappointed that anyone would try to infer otherwise for political gain.”

Mr. Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, both said Tuesday they were standing by Mr. Scalise.

Mr. Scalise also got the backing of Rep. Cedric Richmond, the only Democrat in Louisiana’s congressional delegation, who told the Times-Picayune that “I don’t think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body.”

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