WASHINGTON – Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, faces many changes now that he has been expelled from the House for accepting money and free labor in exchange for favors.
Traficant, now an ordinary citizen, immediately lost all House privileges Wednesday night, including use of Capitol facilities, the right to speak or vote on the House floor and any equipment provided by Congress to its active members, such as pagers or special cell phones.
But, as a former member, Traficant still gets special access to the Capitol and to the House floor whenever he wants.
In a letter after the vote, House officials formally told the Ohio Democrat that he had been expelled from the chamber and would need to clean out his small, corner office across the street from the Capitol. No time period was set for Traficant and his personal items to be removed from the Capitol complex, House officials said.
Under House rules, Traficant's 21-member congressional staff remains in place until his term ends Dec. 31, or until a successor is elected through a special election. The House clerk assumes control of the office, but the five Washington staff members and 16 employees in Ohio would make the day-to-day decisions.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, will have to decide whether to hold a special election for Traficant's seat or let it remain unfilled until the 108th Congress takes office in January.
The election could cost the financially strapped district as much as $800,000.
Ohio law does not prohibit Traficant from running in a special election or this fall's general race, which he has already entered as an independent.
Democrats, needing seven seats to take control of the House next year, are hoping to keep on its side the blue-collar district in northeast Ohio, but GOP strategists maintain that with Traficant in the race, a split vote could propel their candidate to victory.
House officials did not say exactly when Traficant would get his final paycheck as a representative. He made $150,000 a year as a congressman and is still eligible to collect his pension. Under law, the only way a member loses their pension is by committing treason.
Finally, Traficant faces sentencing Tuesday for his conviction for bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. Federal prosecutors have recommended he serve at least 7 1/4 years in prison.
The former congressman is expected to appeal whatever sentence the judge hands down.