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June 22, 2016

Despite conviction, House Dems not yet calling for Fattah to resign

Philly congressman found guilty on racketeering charges

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was convicted on every racketeering charge brought against him by federal prosecutors, but his fellow House Democrats are not yet calling for him to step down.

According to Politico, the 11-term Congressman, who's represented Pennsylvania's 2nd Congressional District since 1995, isn't yet receiving pressure from his party to resign, despite a precedent of lawmakers convicted of similar criminal acts either leaving their post or being forced out.

Under the circumstances of Fattah's conviction, he cannot vote in committee or on the floor of the House. Fattah made no indication he planned to quit in a statement after Tuesday's ruling, which found him guilty on charges of racketeering, fraud, money laundering and related counts.

"Today’s decision notwithstanding, it has been my privilege to serve the constituents of the Second Congressional District for over 20 years," he said in a statement, making no clear reference to a plan to appeal or leave office.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office has been silent, and other Democrats are stalling on calling for him to step down. 

Per Politico:

Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a fellow Congressional Black Caucus member, said he’s giving his colleague and former fraternity brother some space — at least for now.

"[Fattah] needs time to think it over and pray about it and sit down with his family and hopefully some clergy friends and make decisions based on logic more than politics,” Cleaver said. “I’m sure he is going through a lot of emotions right now. We ought to give him time to figure out what his best next steps should be for his future and family.”


Another senior black Democrat who did not wish to go on record said he thought Fattah should resign. Democrats, after all, don’t want a convicted felon in their ranks. But they also don’t want to look like they’re forcing out one of their own out of office, especially if Fattah appeals.

Fellow Philly Congressman Bob Brady took a similar route when prodded on the subject. He told The Philadelphia Inquirer that stepping down was Fattah's call, and expressed shock at the conviction. 

Per the Inquirer:

"I've known him 30 years," Brady, the longtime head of the Democratic City Committee, said shortly after the verdict. "He's done an awful lot of good for the city of Philadelphia, for the region, and for the United States. It's a shame to have something like this happen."

Brady said Fattah "would have never been someone that I thought would ever make mistakes or break the law."

In order for Fattah to be forced out, the  House Ethics Committee would need to take action, followed by a vote on the floor.

Fattah was defeated in his effort to retain his seat by state Rep. Dwight Evans in April's Democratic primary. In a heavily Democratic district that includes a chunk of Philadelphia as well as part of Lower Merion, Evans is expected to easily fend off Republican challenger James Jones in November.

Evans told the Inquirer the conviction was a "sad day" for the area and Fattah's family, adding he was committed to moving the district forward.