Rep. Andrews resigning from Congress

Anne Wernikoff

Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) on Tuesday said he will resign from Congress on Feb. 18 to take a job at Dilworth Paxson, a prominent law firm in Philadelphia.

Andrews, who was dealing with a congressional ethics probe, announced his decision at a press conference Tuesday morning at his district office in Haddon Heights, N.J.

“After the most careful consideration, I have decided to accept this new role at the Dilworth Paxson law firm, a firm deeply rooted in high standards of professional excellence and public service,” he said. “Accordingly, I will be leaving the Congress during the forthcoming President's Day recess, on February 18, and joining the firm shortly thereafter.”

The House, Andrews added, has always been an environment of “high energy and healthy division.”

“My decision is, however, most emphatically not a political decision about what is happening in Washington — it is a personal decision about the best path for my family. I am proud to serve with members of both parties, Democratic and Republican, liberal and conservative,” Andrews said.

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While Andrews said his decision to resign was personal, the pending ethics investigation into his campaign finances could have been a factor.

A slew of former lawmakers who faced ethics charges have resigned in the middle of their terms before the committee had the opportunity to issue a report on their investigations.

The House Ethics Committee has been investigating Andrews for nearly a year, after he allegedly used campaign funds to pay for personal trips to Scotland and Los Angeles. He also has been accused of using his daughter’s graduation party to raise money for his campaign.

The congressman’s campaign committee has been spending more than $200,000 on a legal defense team to help him in the inquiry, according to The Courier-Post, a newspaper in southern New Jersey.

A report released in 2012 showed the congressman had initially paid for airplane tickets for himself, his wife and his two daughters that were worth $16,500. Andrews later used funds from his leadership PAC to pay for them.

In October, CBS’s “60 Minutes” asked the congressman for an interview, but he didn’t respond. Instead, host Steve Kroft showed up at a hearing Andrews attended.

“I followed the rules, met the standards,” Andrews told Kroft about the investigation at the time and said he couldn’t say anything more because “my obligation is not to talk about a pending matter.”

Kroft said the House Ethics Committee told him they were fine with Andrews answering questions, but the congressman continued to refuse to comment.

Andrews, 56, has served in Congress for 24 years. He succeeded former Rep. James Florio (D-N.J.) after winning a special election to replace him in 1990. Florio held the seat for 15 years.

President Obama thanked Andrews for his service, and commended his “tenacity and skill” in a statement the White House released Tuesday afternoon.

Andrews not only helped improve the education system, Obama said, but he also played a role in the creation of ObamaCare.

“More recently, Rob was an original author of the Affordable Care Act and has been a vital partner in its passage and implementation. The grandson of shipyard workers and the first in his family to attend college, Rob has worked hard to preserve the American Dream for future generations. Michelle and I thank Congressman Andrews for his service and partnership, and we wish him, his wife Camille, and their two daughters the very best,” Obama said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised Andrews in a statement.

“In New Jersey, Rob Andrews never failed to earn the trust of his constituents; in Washington, D.C., he always succeeded in securing the respect of his colleagues. He has been a critical voice for our Democratic Caucus and for the entire Congress, and his leadership and friendship will be missed.”

New Jersey could set this seat’s special election dates to coincide with dates already scheduled for the regular primary and general elections. Andrews’s seat is in a heavily Democratic district and would likely remain that way.

In 2008, Andrews ran against the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in the primary, but lost. Andrews’s wife, meanwhile, had won the primary to replace him. For the general election, however, the congressman was able to instead have his name on the ballot, and won a full term in Congress again.
 
 
This story was updated at 3:53 p.m.