Politics is not a bad profession, Ronald Reagan liked to say: Succeed, and the rewards are many. Disgrace yourself, and you can always write a book.
Literary agents are no doubt lining up to chat with Rep. Eric ("I'm a salty guy") Massa, who resigned last week amid bizarre and increasingly creepy allegations of harassing both male staffers and Navy compatriots. To those who might be under the impression that his misconduct was sexual, however, Massa helpfully explained himself. "Now they're saying I groped a male staffer. Yeah, I did," he relayed to Fox's Glenn Beck. "Not that I groped him—I tickled him until he couldn't breathe."
But as the eyebrow-raising anecdotes continue to mount, each more serious than the last, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill find themselves in a political showdown with vocal House Republicans, who are demanding that the ethics committee reopen its investigation to address questions about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office knew—and when. If this doesn't happen they say, it means that Democrats are hardly serious about Pelosi's pledge to clean up Congress. The wrangling is one more headache for House Democrats, who are now down at least one vote for healthcare reform.
The GOP calls to action mark a turnaround in the course of a week in which some Republican members initially took a different tack, embracing Massa as a wronged darling of the anti-healthcare-reform movement and dismissing charges of wrongdoing as the smear campaign of a brass-knuckled Obama administration. This after Massa said that he was accosted while showering in the members locker room by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. "I am sitting here showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest yelling at me because I wasn't going to vote for the president's budget."
As a supporter of more robust reform who voted against the House bill passed in November because it didn't include a public option, Massa makes an unlikely hero for the right. And as the week progressed, Republicans distanced themselves.
By week's end, they were pressing Democrats to censure Massa. The House ethics committee closed its investigation after Massa resigned, but the GOP spearheaded a 402-to-1 vote on a resolution urging the committee to reopen an investigation. Republicans raised the precedent of Mark Foley, the Florida representative who resigned in 2006 for sending sexually explicit messages to former male pages, pointing out that after he resigned, the committee launched an investigation into the charges. "At this point, there are a lot more questions than answers," House Minority Leader John Boehner told reporters last week. "And I would hope that we would get to the bottom of some of these questions."
When Beck asked on his program whether "another shoe was going to drop," Massa responded enthusiastically. "I'm sure there's text messages," he said, "because we bantered back and forth all the time." And with that, there promises to be more to come.
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