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Rep stays away from the Capitol



Published: Tue, April 16, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The House ethics committee basically told the congressman not to vote.

STAFF/WIRE REPORTS

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mr. Traficant does not go to Washington -- at least for a week.

U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., convicted last week by a federal jury on 10 felony counts, has no plans to return to Capitol Hill this week, said Charles Straub, his spokesman.

"It is open-ended week to week as to whether he will return," Straub said. "We'll evaluate week to week."

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, more commonly known as the House ethics committee, warned Traficant, a Poland Democrat, on Monday "in the strongest possible terms" not to vote on the House floor while lawmakers review his conviction.

Letter from the committee

In a letter, the committee told the nine-term Democrat he risks action by the full House if he tries to vote.

Straub said the congressman intended to give the ethics committee a chance to make recommendations.

"He's not looking to create more of a problem than already exists," Straub said.

The House is open for session today through Thursday.

House rules say that a lawmaker convicted of felonies should refrain from voting, but they do not bar him from doing so.

Although "this provision is not mandatory, we emphasize in the strongest possible terms that if you violate the clear principles of this provision ... by voting in the House, you risk subjecting yourself to action," the letter said.

Traficant is honoring that recommendation, at least for the time being.

Possible disciplinary actions

House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt has already called for Traficant to resign, and the House ethics committee has announced that it will meet to consider disciplinary action against Traficant.

The ethics committee could recommend Traficant be expelled from Congress, which would require a two-thirds majority vote of the 435-member House of Representatives.

Separately, a member of Congress can at any time introduce a resolution calling for immediate disciplinary action, including expulsion. Such a request must be debated and either voted on or sent to the ethics committee within two days.

The House has expelled only four members in its history, and one since the Civil War.

The committee also could recommend other penalties, including censure, or deny and/or limit his rights and privileges. The House needs only a simple majority to approve those recommendations.

Absent since February

Traficant has not attended a House session since his criminal trial began Feb. 5.

Because of the political climate in Washington, D.C., Traficant can better serve his Mahoning Valley constituents from home than Capitol Hill, Straub said.

The ethics committee launched an investigation of the congressman only minutes after the verdict was read. The jury found Traficant guilty on all 10 counts including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.

Traficant plans to appeal the decision. Also, he has no plans to resign from Congress and wants to run for re-election as an independent.

"He is not going to resign," Straub said. "He has indicated that for sure."

Traficant was to appear on Y-103 FM's morning show today to make his first public comments since his conviction last week.

skolnick@vindy.com




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