Two Michigan lawmakers who admitted to misconduct in covering up their extramarital affair should be expelled from the Legislature, a state House panel recommended Thursday.
The disciplinary committee voted 4-0 Thursday to urge the expulsion of tea party Republicans Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat. Just three legislators have been expelled in Michigan history.
The recommendation now goes to the full House where a two-thirds vote is needed to remove the pair from office. The House could consider it Thursday.
"This episode must be put behind us. Neither representative has in my mind convinced me that they will be able to regain the public trust, nor the trust of the members in the House," said Rep. Ed McBroom, a Republican from Vulcan in the Upper Peninsula who chaired the panel.
Another committee member, Republican Rep. Andrea LaFontaine of Columbus Township, said the pair's behavior was "disgusting and inappropriate" and worthy of expulsion.
Courser, 43, has admitted sending an "outlandish" phony email to GOP activists and others claiming he was caught with a male prostitute. The email was intended to make his affair with the 42-year-old Gamrat appear less believable if it were exposed by an anonymous blackmailer who had demanded his resignation.
Gamrat told the committee she discussed the plot with Courser but did not know the email's sexually explicit content before it was sent.
The scandal unfolded last month after a staffer the couple shared was fired in July. He gave The Detroit News a secret audio recording of Courser demanding that he send the email to "inoculate the herd," an apparent reference to Courser's supporters. While the aide refused and the email was likely legal, the plot was unethical, according to a House Business Office investigation that alleged dishonesty and wrongdoing.
Courser and Gamrat apologized and asked for censure during two days of testimony this week. A censure would limit their work while letting them stay in office.
Four Republicans backed their expulsion Thursday, while two Democrats abstained, saying they wanted to subpoena two aides fired by Courser and Gamrat. Their stance put in doubt whether other Democrats would join majority Republicans to expel on the House floor.
After the vote, Courser said Democrats raised "good points" and it was a "really, really short process." Gamrat attorney Mike Nichols raised the possibility that she might resign before the House votes.
"You never know," he said.
The House's top lawyer had recommended that Courser be kicked out and Gamrat censured, contending she was more of an accomplice.
The committee listened Wednesday to the 80-minute recording in which Courser discussed his marital problems, the extortion and his reasoning for sending the email. The reluctant staffer, Ben Graham, told him, "this isn't going to work."