The Washington Examiner reported Friday that House Republicans are leaning on Rep. Mike Fortenberry (R-NE) to resign after he was convicted on three counts of lying to the FBI about a foreign campaign contribution, which is a felony.
House rules do not require a convicted felon to resign, only not to vote or participate in any committee business until they are re-elected by their constituency. In other words, if the people still re-elect them after a conviction, who is the House to say they can’t serve?
But it has been typical for those convicted of a crime to resign from Congress, and those who didn’t were not often re-elected anyway.
Fortenberry has maintained his innocence and said he will appeal the conviction, but Republicans still see him as a liability during an important election season.
Day in court
“I think he had his day in court. I think if he wants to appeal, he can go do that as a private citizen,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said. “But I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign.”
McCarthy planned to speak to Fortenberry on Friday about resigning.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed that Fortenberry should resign. “Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve,” she said in a statement. “Congressman Fortenberry must resign from the House.”
If the embattled lawmaker refuses to resign, members of either party could take action to remove him, which would take a two-thirds vote to accomplish.
What has he done?
So far, Fortenberry has stepped down from his committees, which happened as soon as he was indicted in October.
If his planned appeal fails, Fortenberry faces up to five years in jail on each count.
Fortenberry is facing a strong challenge in the Republican primary from state Sen. Mike Flood for his seat. The primary will be held on May 10.
It seems obvious that Republicans should not give ammunition to Democrats by keeping Fortenberry around. There has been no huge outcry that his conviction was wrongful, so his continued presence in the House just makes Republicans look corrupt.