House Votes Overwhelmingly to Expel Ohio Democrat
Texas Democrat Gene Green told the chamber, ”We have to do our job.”
“If we can’t remove a member of Congress who has been convicted of 10 felony counts… we risk losing the faith and trust of the American people.”
The move makes Traficant only the fifth House member removed in the body’s history and the second since the Civil War.
In a vote that took just minutes to complete, the House voted 420 to 1 to expel the nine-term congressman, with nine members voting present. The lone vote in support of Traficant came from California Democrat Gary Condit, who was defeated in a primary bid after he was romantically linked with Chandra Ann Levy, a murdered government intern.
The 61-year-old Traficant, known for his bombastic speeches and often-outrageous behavior, remained defiant throughout the three-hour proceedings, telling House members during a 45-minute defense Wednesday night that a number of government forces conspiring against him had led to his conviction.
“I’ll go to jail before I’ll resign and admit something I didn’t do,” Traficant said. “I’ll be damned if I’ll be pressured by a government that pressured these witnesses to death.”
An Ohio court convicted the nine-term Congressman in April for seeking bribes from business executives and forcing his staff to provide salary kickbacks and perform manual labor. Traficant denies the charges, saying the government was out to smear him because he had been critical of the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department under former Attorney General Janet Reno.
Concluding his remarks, Traficant asked his colleagues to reconsider removing him.
“My people elected me and I don’t think you should take their representative away,” he said, adding later: “Vote your conscience. Nothing personal. I hope I’m back.”
Traficant has said he will run as an independent to recapture his seat this fall. With his removal, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, will decide whether to hold a special election for Traficant’s seat or leave it vacant until January, when the new Congress is sworn in.
Under House rules, Traficant’s 21-member staff will remain in place until a new Congressman takes over.
Traficant is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday for his felony convictions. Federal prosecutors have recommended he serve at least seven-and-a-quarter years in prison.