Pelosi amps up pressure on Conyers to resign

Pelosi amps up pressure on Conyers to resign
© Greg Nash

House Democrats, behind Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Hoyer suggests Dems won't support spending bill without DACA fix Trump’s first year in office was the year of the woman MORE (D-Calif.), are upping the pressure on Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersWoman accuses New York state senator of sexual misconduct Dissatisfaction with position of women in US hits new high Republicans on the run: Retirements could be trouble for Trump and party MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) to resign from Congress amid a growing list of sexual harassment allegations.

Pelosi has been working with leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) — a group Conyers helped to create decades ago — to convince the veteran Detroit lawmaker to step away from Capitol Hill rather than await the verdict of a House Ethics Committee investigation into his alleged transgressions. 

“Pelosi continues to work with CBC to apply pressure to get Conyers to step down,” a senior aide said Tuesday. 

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As a type of backstop, Pelosi also sent a letter to the Ethics Committee on Tuesday urging the panel to move quickly as it considers the Conyers allegations. If the committee needs additional resources to make that happen, Pelosi added, “please make that need known.” 

“We are at a watershed moment for our country in the fight against sexual harassment and discrimination,” Pelosi wrote to Ethics Chairwoman Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksEthics panel denied details on lawmakers accused of harassment Ethics panel asks for details of past harassment cases against serving lawmakers Pelosi amps up pressure on Conyers to resign MORE (R-Ind.) and ranking member Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchFour lawmakers join House Climate Solutions Caucus Ethics panel denied details on lawmakers accused of harassment Ethics panel asks for details of past harassment cases against serving lawmakers MORE (D-Fla.). 

“The Committee on Ethics has a great responsibility to proceed expeditiously as well as fairly into any investigation of credible harassment and discrimination allegations.”

Conyers, 88 years old and the longest-serving current member of Congress, has denied the accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward former female staffers, three of whom have lodged their charges publicly. The latest case arrived Monday night when The Detroit News reported allegations from a former staffer that Conyers had touched her legs and offered sex against her wishes in the late 1990s. 

Despite maintaining his innocence, Conyers on Sunday agreed to step down from his seat as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. 

“I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics,” he said in a statement. 

Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Hoyer suggests Dems won't support spending bill without DACA fix MORE (D-Md.), the minority whip, rejected the notion that Conyers should resign, citing the importance of preserving the rights of the accused to a review process. 

“In every one of these cases we need to have an adjudication, and if found culpable, then accountability needs to [follow],” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “And of course, he’s stepped aside [from ranking member], which he should have done.”

But other Democrats aren’t willing to wait for the Ethics panel to reach a verdict. Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceWeather Channel explains weather vs. climate after Trump tweet Dems rail against Trump after global warming tweet Dem lawmaker: Trump 'tweeting like a child who hates science class' MORE (D-N.Y.) has been pushing for Conyers’s resignation for most of the last week, and she was joined on Tuesday by Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDems rail against Trump after global warming tweet Dem Rep: The president should be able to understand climate change Hundreds demand US, UK, French action to end Yemen civil war MORE (D-Wash.), who warned her Democratic colleagues that defending Conyers would steal their moral authority to criticize President Trump — who has been accused of harassment by more than a dozen women — and GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who’s facing his own pile of sexual harassment allegations in Alabama. 

“It is not easy for me to reach this conclusion because, as a civil rights activist, I have looked up to Rep. Conyers for decades,” Jayapal said in a statement. 

“[But] I believe these women, I see the pattern and there is only one conclusion – Mr. Conyers must resign.”