House vote pressures ethics to probe Dem leaders on Massa

The House voted Thursday to have the ethics panel consider an investigation into what Democratic leaders knew of allegations of sexual harassment against former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.).

Only two members cast votes against the resolution, which came up after GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) offered a privileged resolution to ask ethics to open an investigation. 

Boehner immediately hailed the vote as sending a strong bipartisan signal that an investigation is necessary to answer "serious questions" about the Massa matter.

"We all have a responsibility to rise above politics and do what's right for the institution of the House," Boehner said.

Boehner's resolution asks that the ethics panel look into what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other Democratic leaders and staffers knew about allegations of sexual harassment against Massa, and when they became aware of the situation.

Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) called to end debate on Boehner's resolution, and then to vote to send it to the ethics committee.

Members of both parties voted overwhelmingly to support the Clyburn resolution, which passed 402-1. No Democrats voted against the resolution, while two Republicans voted against it. The members of the ethics panel, which would conduct the investigation, voted "present," as is custom.

Massa resigned on Monday amid allegations that he had sexually harassed several male aides.

The vote came amid reports that members of Pelosi's staff knew of at least some allegations against Massa as early as last year.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Massa's former chief of staff told Pelosi's office about a lunch date that Massa had made with a congressional aide in his 20s who worked for Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

The chief of staff was reportedly concerned that Massa was trying to spend time with young gay men with no ostensible work purpose.

Hoyer's office knew about some of the allegations against Massa earlier this year. Hoyer has said that his office told Massa’s office that Massa had 48 hours to inform the ethics panel of the allegations or that Hoyer would do so.

The House ethics panel had been set to launch an investigation before Massa left office. It said Wednesday it was closing the book on Massa.

After former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned in 2006 after allegations that he had sent sexually explicit messages to House pages, the ethics panel looked into what House leaders knew about Foley at the time.

That probe looked looked into whether GOP leaders at the time ignored claims about Foley.

This article was first posted at 12:34 p.m. and updated at 2:19 p.m.

An earlier version of this story included an incorrect vote tally.