After federal corruption conviction, Fattah to resign immediately

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (center) leaves the federal courthouse after being convicted Tuesday, June 21, 2016, in a federal racketeering case.

Update: U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah on Thursday sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan announcing he is resigning immediately.

Earlier story:

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah told congressional leaders Wednesday that he intends to resign in three months, following his conviction this week on federal corruption charges.

But whether he stays that long may not be up to him.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) called on the Philadelphia Democrat to step down "immediately." Republicans were mounting a vote to expel Fattah even before he submitted his resignation letter, and they could still push to kick him out.

"Mr. Fattah has betrayed the trust of this institution and the people of Pennsylvania, and for that he should resign immediately from the House of Representatives," Ryan said in a statement late Wednesday. "We must hold members to the highest ethical standard, and I hope that Democratic leaders will join me in seeking his immediate resignation."

Fattah, who lost his bid for a 12th term to State Rep. Dwight Evans in April's Democratic primary, was convicted Tuesday on 22 counts including racketeering conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, and fraud. He is facing a potentially lengthy prison term.

In his resignation letter, the 11-term congressman said he intended to leave office a day before his sentencing hearing.

"I'm very sad about the verdict the jury rendered yesterday and because of that, my resignation is effective Oct. 3, 2016," Fattah wrote. "Despite my resignation I am working to clear my name of these charges and plan to mount an appeal."

U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party and a longtime Fattah friend, said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had asked him earlier Wednesday to reach out to Fattah to discuss his future in the House.

"He said he would work it out," Brady said.

Pelosi had told reporters she expected that "we'll be hearing something soon" about Fattah's future.

She called his conviction "very sad" and "heartbreaking," citing his work on children's issues and education.

"I think he should think it through and he'll let us know," Pelosi said.

After Ryan's call for his immediate departure, Fattah in a statement suggested he might leave before October. After consulting with House leaders, Fattah said, "we are working to identify an agreeable time frame which will relieve the House of any distractions in carrying out the people's business."

Philadelphia Republicans decried Fattah's plan to remain in office for months. City GOP Chairman Joseph J. DeFelice accused Fattah of "ensuring he can collect a paycheck while continuing to do nothing to benefit his constituents."

"This whole episode has been a stain on the city of Philadelphia and hopefully he will end this charade sooner rather than later to save the city from any further embarrassment," he said.

While Fattah remains a member of the 114th Congress, House rules prohibit him from voting on legislation or participating in committee proceedings.

Gov. Wolf would have to decide whether to call a special election, which likely would cost more than $150,000, based on Philadelphia reimbursement requests for recent special election costs.

Wolf, through a spokesman, declined to speculate about a special election but said he thought Fattah should resign.

If Fattah remains in office until his suggested Oct. 3 date and Wolf called for a special election the same day, the earliest it could be held would be in early December. The winner would immediately become a member of the House but would only finish out the last month of Fattah's term.

Little of legislative significance is expected to happen in the House before the Nov. 8 general election. That will be followed by a "lame duck" seven-week session.

Only five members of the House have been expelled. The first three came in 1861 for supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Rep. Michael "Ozzie" Myers, a Philadelphia Democrat, was expelled in 1980 after his conviction in the federal Abscam bribery case. The last member expelled, in 2002, was Rep. James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat convicted on bribery and racketeering charges.

If Fattah remains in office, his staff in Washington and Philadelphia could continue to provide constituent services.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell, speaking on 1210 WPHT Wednesday morning, defended the value in keeping Fattah's staff in his office for such work even if their boss cannot vote.

"Normally, you'd want him to resign so we could get another replacement in," Rendell said. "It's hardly worth the effort having a special election."

jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-854-2608

@jeremyrroebuck


Read Chaka Fattah's resignation letter at www.philly.com/fattahletter