Editorial: Lawbreaking lawmaker must be kicked out

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 20, 2002

Never known for looking too closly at its own transgressions, the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to do what it has done only once since the Civil War: Expel a member. In the case of Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, it will be the right decision.

Traficant was convicted in April of bribery, tax evasion and fraud. This week, he was called before the House’s Committee on Standards of Official Conducts which unanimously decided to recommend Traficant’s expulsion from the House. Many a representative has escaped the consequences of seamy activities with little more than a slap on the wrist. But indications that Traficant took kickbacks, encouraged the destruction of evidence and filed false income tax returns was strong enough for a court to convict him and for the House panel to recommend his ouster. Unless an appeal proves successful, he will soon be in prison.

Although Traficant claims that the government is out to get him, it is far likelier that his case has been handled with kid gloves. And now even his House colleagues can no longer ignore what should have been obvious for some time: Traficant must go.

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It requires a two-thirds vote of the House’s 435 members to expel a representative. There should be little doubt in the minds of lawmakers when they decide, perhaps as soon as next week, Traficant’s fate. He should be expelled.