WASHINGTON – Dramatic, defiant and dressed in bell-bottom pants that were stylish three decades ago, Rep. James Traficant made his last performance on the House floor one for the history books.
Recalling familiar themes from his four-day hearing before the House ethics committee last week, the 61-year-old Traficant used his last moment in the spotlight to launch into a haphazard diatribe of who did what and why he's not to blame for his conviction.
"What I am trying to tell you is there's no physical evidence," the Ohio Democrat shouted to the unusually crowded House chamber.
In a sign of the seriousness of the debate, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., had asked lawmakers to be on the floor for the debate and to behave in a dignified and decorous manner.
Traficant, who left Youngstown, Ohio, Wednesday morning to drive to Washington, didn't afford his colleagues the same courtesy.
In his last appearance as a sitting member in the stately, wood-paneled House chamber, Traficant appealed to colleagues to keep him around. Knowing they wouldn't, he said he may be back anyway after re-election.
Traficant is running again as an independent from the largely blue-collar 17th District in northeastern Ohio that he has represented for more than 17 years.
On his last night as a lawmaker, Traficant drew a few quiet chuckles from lawmakers even as they prepared to vote for his expulsion.
"Am I different? Yeah. Have I changed my pants? No. Deep down, you really want to wear wider bottoms, you're just afraid," he said. He said he wore skinny ties to de-emphasize his heft and joked about using a Weed Wacker to cut his unruly silver hair.
In the end, Traficant left Congress quietly. He secluded himself in his office across Independence Avenue from the Capitol briefly after the vote, declining to make himself available to reporters.
He faces sentencing in Cleveland on Tuesday. Federal prosecutors have recommended he serve at least 7-1/4 years in prison.