House To Vote On Expulsion Of Traficant

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ohio Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. promises to make what could be his last appearance in Congress an exciting one.

The House was to decide late Wednesday whether to make the controversial and colorful maverick only the second lawmaker since the Civil War to be forcibly expelled from Congress.

But Traficant -- to no one's surprise -- says he won't go quietly.

The 61-year-old convicted Democrat (pictured, above) can be expected to dress outrageously, talk loudly, behave dramatically and make an overall spectacle of himself. And be careful, he warns his colleagues, because he might be back.

"I know that sounds very unusual, but don't be surprised if I don't come with some political or legal machinations that puts Congress on its heels," he said Tuesday after finding out the House was ready to throw him out.

The House late Wednesday was scheduled to vote on whether to kick Traficant out of Congress following his April conviction on 10 counts of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion. The House ethics committee last week found him guilty of ethical violations and recommended unanimously that he be expelled from Congress.

However, one of Traficant's Ohio colleagues and friends, Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette, said Wednesday he would ask the House to delay the vote until Sept 4.

LaTourette spokeswoman Deb Setliff said the congressman was concerned about testimony given by Richard Detore, former chief operating officer of U.S. Aerospace Group, to the House ethics committee. He told the committee that federal prosecutors pressured him to lie to win Traficant's conviction.

Detore did not testify at Traficant's trial, and at least one of the jurors has said he would have voted to acquit Traficant of all charges if Detore had testified.

If expelled, Traficant would join Rep. Michael Myers, D-Pa., who was ejected from the House in 1980 for accepting bribes, as the only member of Congress kicked out in the past century and a half.

In its 213-year history, the House has expelled just four members, including three congressmen who were charged with treason during the Civil War.

But nothing will compare with the vote on Traficant, who has not spoken on the House floor since his conviction. He continues to insist on his innocence, and plans on appealing his conviction and running for re-election as an independent.

"I'll probably make my speech on the House floor in some outfit, and being a fashion leader, you can expect anything," said Traficant, who has threatened to wear a denim suit and do a "Michael Jackson moonwalk" when he gets to the floor.

Traficant has been the king of the one-minute speech in the House, using arm-waving theatrics and expressions such as "Beam me up!" as he lambasted people he didn't like, such as former Attorney General Janet Reno and government agencies like the FBI or the Internal Revenue Service.

But when it comes time to defend himself against expulsion, Traficant will get at least 30 minutes in front of the House microphone and maybe more. The colorful, opinionated congressman has requested more time -- eight hours -- and has vowed to make what could be his last speech on the House floor one to remember.

While he will have the option up to the moment of the vote, Traficant insists that he will not resign his seat. "It's not time for me to go quietly in the night," Traficant told CNN. "I'm still a lion."

It takes two-thirds of the voting members of the 435-member House to approve expulsion.

Federal prosecutors have recommended Traficant serve at least 7-1/4 years in prison on the criminal charges. Sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Traficant has angered members of his own party for years by voting with Republicans on many bills and helping to elect Republican Dennis Hastert as speaker. His district was cut up in the Ohio reapportionment, and he became the only House member this year without a committee assignment.

But Traficant is confident that he can win a congressional seat from jail even without party support.

"They may expel me and they may have me back next week," Traficant said. "And so help me God, if that happens, if they think I've been a loudmouth in the last so many years, get ready for Jim Traficant."

House leaders had talked about delaying the vote until September, but "all things considered, right now the best course of judgment for everybody, including Jim Traficant, is for us to go ahead this week," said Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas.

To ensure that the vote goes forward, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., late Tuesday made a motion on the House floor for the Traficant vote to occur within 48 hours.

Sanchez was one of the first House members to call for Traficant's expulsion after his conviction. "I think he tarnishes all of us," Sanchez said in April.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)