Will he stay or will he go? Rep. Michael Grimm (R) of New York, that is – recent winner of what some pundits called the worst congressional race in America.
Remember Representative Grimm? At the time of the midterm elections in November, the incumbent from Staten Island was facing a 20-count federal indictment on charges of tax evasion and questionable campaign contributions. He’d been caught on tape threatening to throw a TV reporter off a balcony and “break him like a boy.”
Yet the New York Daily News endorsed Grimm on the grounds that his Democratic opponent was even worse, a party hack so “evasive and inarticulate that voting for a thuggish Republican who could wind up in a prison jumpsuit starts to make rational sense,” according to the Daily News editorial page.
Grimm won by 16 points. But now he may have to walk away. He’s reportedly set to plead guilty to a single count of federal tax evasion. He may avoid prison time. He may argue that he can still serve the people of the district, since he won’t be behind bars. But the thinking on Capitol Hill is that Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio won’t stand for a felon in his caucus.
“What is all but certain is that Grimm can’t survive politically once he admits guilt,” write Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan in Politico Tuesday.
Speaker Boehner has been tough on past miscreants. In 2011, he forced out Rep. Christopher Lee (R) of New York after the latter sent shirtless photos of himself to a woman who’d posted a personal ad on Craigslist. In 2010, the speaker pushed out Rep. Mark Souder (R) of Indiana for having an affair with a staff member.
Under House Ethics Rule 23, any member convicted of a crime that carries a possible prison term of at least two years isn’t supposed to participate in votes until reelected, reports the New York Daily News. That means Grimm’s Staten Island constituents would be deprived of representation if he stays in office.
So it’s pretty much inevitable the GOP leadership will want Grimm out. The only real question is whether he’ll go along quietly or have to be pushed.
Democrats aren’t making his position any more tenable. Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D) of California said Tuesday that “Speaker Boehner must insist that Congressman Grimm resign immediately.”
Staten Islanders will then face a special election to replace their ousted congressman. Presumably, Democrats will put up a different candidate than former New York City Council member Domenic Recchia, whom Grimm crushed in November.
If so, the district might end up with less-tainted representation, the outcome the Daily News hoped for in the first place when it held its nose and endorsed Grimm in the fall.