Why won't 'kissing congressman' quit?

House GOP leaders want Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister out this week, but he aims to serve out his term. His stated reason: to avoid leaving his constituents without federal representation.

Emerald Mcintyre/The News-Star/AP
Republican Rep. Vance McAllister and his wife, Kelly, check in at Monroe Regional Airport on their way to Washington, in Monroe, La., Monday. Congressman McAllister said Monday he will not seek reelection this fall after being caught on video cuddling with a female aide, but he intends to finish out his term.

Rep. Vance McAllister (R) of Louisiana, the “kissing congressman” caught on video snuggling with a staffer who is not his wife, has announced that he won’t run for reelection this fall. Let’s make that clear up top. He said Monday that he takes full responsibility for his personal failure and is truly sorry for his actions, and he will end his congressional career in November after a short 14 months in office.

“I have taken this time to reconcile with my wife and kids and I’m forever grateful for their support and forgiveness,” said Representative McAllister in a statement.

But McAllister added that he won’t quit right now, this week, which is what the Republican House leadership wants him to do. House majority leader Eric Cantor said Tuesday that he’d met with McAllister and urged him to resign immediately.

“When we took the majority, I had said that I believe we ought to hold ourselves to a higher standard. And I think what has happened in this instance doesn’t meet that standard,” Mr. Cantor said in a brief interview with Politico.

That’s interesting. Why is McAllister defying his party’s top officials? After all, he’s leaving D.C. anyway. The question is timing, not the final result.

The short answer is that the Louisiana soon-to-be-ex-member has different incentives and goals than his party at large. Presumably, he’ll be moving back to Louisiana full-time to resume his business career. If he quits now, he won’t get paid while he plans the transition. Plus, if he resigns, his constituents won’t have a federal representative. That’s the reason he’s given for staying in office.

“I do not feel it’s in my constituents’ best interest to leave them without representation for the second time in less than a year,” he told his hometown Monroe, La. newspaper, the News-Star.

In contrast, Republican leaders want him gone as soon as possible because there’s a midterm election coming up. They don’t want any symbols of scandal hanging around, packing their offices, while they’re trying to hold the House and recapture control of the Senate. Message control – it’s a foundation of modern political campaigns.

Whether they can get McAllister to change his mind is an open question. He has been more of a GOP outsider than a committed member of the ranks. After all, he beat an establishment Republican candidate in a primary before winning a special election in 2013. He’s said he supports Medicaid expansion in his state, as provided for by the president's Affordable Care Act. That’s anathema to many GOP lawmakers.

If McAllister has any thoughts of continuing in politics at any level, at any point in the future, he might bow to Cantor’s wishes. But if he figures he’s done with all that, he might just stay in office, bank his paycheck, and smile broadly every time he passes a GOP leadership aide on his way into the chamber to vote.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.