Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said yesterday said he will seek the expulsion of Reps. Gerry E. Studds (D-Mass.) and Daniel Crane (R-Ill.) from the House of Representatives for engaging in sexual activities with House pages.
The Georgia congressman said that when the House ethics committee's recommendation that Studds and Crane be reprimanded reaches the House floor, possibly on Thursday, he will ask that it be returned to committee on the grounds that it is too lenient.
"It is not a question of sexual relations between consenting adults. It is a question of adults preying on schoolchildren," Gingrich said in a half-hour speech on the House floor.
A reprimand is the most lenient punishment the House can take against a member for misconduct, and Gingrich yesterday called the recommendation a "sad joke."
But he said he would wait until September to push for expulsion so people will have time to comprehend what he called the severity of the men's actions.
Studds, who last week publicly acknowleged his homosexuality for the first time, has admitted having sexual relations several times with a 17-year-old male page in 1973. Crane has admitted having sexual relations with a 17-year-old female page several times in 1980. Both pages told committee investigators that the relationships were voluntary.
The House ethics committee, which revealed the incidents last week in its final report on sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill after a year-long investigation, recommended reprimands for Studds and Crane.
Although action on the ethics committee's recommendations had been expected today, House Democratic leader James Wright (D-Tex.) told reporters yesterday the House will not act before Thursday. He said ethics committee Chairman Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) said he would not be ready to take the matter to the floor today.
In his speech, Gingrich attacked Studds for his speech on the House floor immediately after the release of the committee's report, in which he acknowledged a "serious error in judgment" but said a "voluntary, private relationship between adults" should not warrant the attention or action of the House.
Gingrich called that argument "fundamentally misleading," saying that a 17-year-old is not an adult. Criticizing Studds for being "without remorse," Gingrich said that contrasted sharply with Crane, who Gingrich said "has been severely struck" by his actions.
But, Gingrich said, "Both men abused power" and so should both be expelled. "We are faced with giving up congressmen or giving up the page program."
Rep. Chalmers Wylie (R-Ohio), who told the House that he had spent his weekend talking with constituents about the men's actions, said he had concluded that, "For the good of the institution Congress , Congressmen Studds and Crane should do us the courtesy of resigning."
Studds and Crane have both said that they have no plans to resign.
The House has voted to expel only one member, former representative Michael Myers (D-Pa.), who was convicted in connection with the Abscam investigation in 1980. Since 1976, four members have been reprimanded for misconduct, and two have been censured.