House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was hoping to start 2015 on a positive note, but the felony plea deal copped Tuesday by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) is posing an immediate challenge.
January will mark the first time since 2006 that the GOP has control of both houses of Congress, and Boehner will be at the helm of the House’s largest GOP majority since the 1930s. He and his Senate counterpart, soon-to-be Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), are hoping to show that Republicans can be trusted to govern.
But Grimm made clear soon after his conviction that Boehner would first have to deal with him, saying he did not intend to resign despite the felony charge.
“Everything we’re talking about here happened before I was in Congress, and for the past four years I’ve been a very effective, strong member of Congress that has served the people of Staten Island very well,” Grimm said Tuesday. “I think the proof of that is the will of the people. Ultimately the will of the people will speak.”
Even before Grimm pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn federal courthouse, Democrats were using his case as a cudgel to pound away at Boehner’s leadership.
“Speaker Boehner has let this go on long enough. It’s past time for Michael Grimm to go and it’s John Boehner’s responsibility to make it happen,” said Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a statement released hours before Grimm’s plea.
“Speaker Boehner and Republican leaders’ continued complicity in letting Michael Grimm stay in Congress despite his guilt of felony tax evasion is a disservice to the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn and a stain on the institution of the United States House of Representatives,” Schwerin added. “After Speaker Boehner abetted Grimm’s lies to voters about his guilt in this past election, he owes it to the constituents and the Congress to make sure Michael Grimm doesn’t serve in this next Congress.”
But forcing Grimm out is not a simple matter. Congressional legal experts say Boehner cannot deny Grimm the opportunity to be seated at the start of the 114th Congress. All he can really do is pressure Grimm to quit.
“That’s just political suasion that’s not legally enforceable,” said Stan Brand, who was the House’s top lawyer when Rep. Charlie Diggs (D-Mich.) was convicted in a kickback scheme in 1978. Diggs was re-elected shortly after he was found guilty, and stayed in Congress until he had to leave to serve jail time. Read more at the Huffington Post.