The House of Representatives this morning will undertake something it has not done in nearly 120 years -- expelling one of its own members. The member in question, Rep. Michael (Ozzie) Myers (D-Pa.), expects to be thrown out.
The House ethics committee has recommednded Myers' ouster and, if the full House agrees by a two-thirds majority, he will become the first member to be expelled since the Civil War.
For spectators interested in history, the hour-long debate begins at 10 a.m.
On July 13, 1861, for example, the House voted, 94 to 45 -- barely over the required two-thirds margin -- to expel Rep. John B. Clark (D-Mo.) for "taking up arms" against the government in a battle at Boonville, Mo., the month before.
On Dec. 2 that year, Rep. John W. Reid (D-Mo.) was expelled on a voice vote, also for fighting for Confederate forces. And the next day, Rep. Henry C. Burnett (D-Ky.) was similarly sacked for taking part in a revolutionary convention allegedly designed to carry his state out of the Union.
In 1921, the House tried to expel Rep. Thomas Blanton (D-Tex.) for inserting an obscenity-filled speech in the the Congressional Record but could not get the two-thirds margin necessary, and censured him..
The ethics committee report said expulsion for Myers is the only sanction that fits his crimes -- taking a $50,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent in the Abscam investigation.
Two dissenters from the committee recommendation, Reps. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) and Louis Stokes (D-Ohio), said the proposed action is too hasty because Myers has not been sentenced and the trial judge has not heard his motions on government misconduct.
"If they expel like I expect, the House will be operating like a lynch mob used to," Myers said yesterday in a phone interview. "And I will immediately file a suit in federal court, with some of my constituents, charging that Congress violated its own rules in moving so fast."
Myers said he still plans to campaign for reelection in his south Philadelphia district. If he wins Nov. 4, after being expelled, the House would be faced with the question of whether to seat him in the new Congress. Myers has said he will resign only when all of his court appeals are exhausted.