Two Democrats call for Conyers to step down from Judiciary post
Rep. John Conyers should give up his post as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee pending an investigation into allegations he sexually harassed female staffers, two of his fellow House Democrats said Wednesday.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it “would not be appropriate” for Conyers (D-Mich.) to stay on as the panel’s top Democrat while congressional investigators look into multiple accusations of sexual harassment.
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“He should step down as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and be subject to this ethics investigation so it can be determined whether or not there’s a practice or pattern,” Meeks said on CNN.
In a taped interview set to air on C-SPAN, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also said Conyers should step down from the post.
“As agonizing as it might be for all of us, the ranking member needs to step down at the minimum,” said Grijalva. “And then the chips will fall from there.”
The House Ethics Committee on Tuesday announced it was opening an investigation into Conyers, the longest serving member of the House, after he confirmed he had paid a settlement to a former staffer who claimed he sexually harassed her.
Meeks and Grijalva are the first Democrats to go so far as to say Conyers should step aside as ranking member. Other Democrats, including House Democratic leaders, issued statements saying the Ethics Committee should look into the “disturbing” allegations against Conyers but did not call for him to step down from the committee or resign from Congress.
Grijalva also called for more disclosure of sexual harassment settlements in Congress.
“I think that we’ve passed the tipping point, whether it is in the boardroom, whether it is on the plant floor… or in the halls of Congress and government, any government level,” Grijalva said. “At some point I think those settlements need to be talked about.”
Conyers on Tuesday admitted to settling a sexual harassment claim with a former employee in 2015, first reported by BuzzFeed, but forcefully denied accusations that the staffer was fired because she wouldn’t give in to his sexual advances. The former aide was paid more than $27,000 out of Conyers’ office, made to look like a severance payment, to settle the allegations.
“I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” Conyers said in a statement. “My office resolved the allegations — with an express denial of liability — in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation.”
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to comment Wednesday on whether Conyers should step down from the Judiciary Committee when asked by POLITICO. Spokespeople for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) all also declined or did not respond to a request for comment.
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders also stayed silent after it was revealed late Tuesday that a second former staffer said Conyers made repeated, unrelenting sexual advances toward her.
The second accuser, who worked as a scheduler in Conyers’ office, filed a lawsuit earlier this year that was later dropped after the judge refused to seal the case. Maria Reddick described Conyers as a “habitual offender” in the court documents, saying he was “repeatedly coming to her desk, rubbing on her shoulders, kissing her forehead, making inappropriate comments, covering and attempting to hold her hand.”