Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan resigns from Congress after taxpayer settlement to aide

Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan said Friday he plans to resign from Congress amid revelations of a taxpayer-funded settlement to a former aide who claimed he sexually harassed her.

Meehan announced in January he wouldn't run for re-election to Congress after the settlement became public. On Friday, he said he was resigning now, instead of finishing his term, to spare his staffers from an Ethics Committee investigation.

“While I do believe I would be exonerated of any wrongdoing, I also did not want to put my staff through the rigors of an Ethics Committee investigation and believed it was best for them to have a head start on new employment rather than being caught up in an inquiry,” Meehan said in a statement. “And since I have chosen to resign, the inquiry will not become a burden to taxpayers and committee staff.”

Meehan also said Friday that he plans to reimburse the government $39,000 “for the severance payment that was made from my office account.”

“I did not want to leave with any question of violating the trust of taxpayers,” Meehan said.

Meehan acknowledged in January that he told a longtime former aide of his he considered her a “soul mate” and admitted that he acted “selfishly” when he found out she was dating someone else, but said his actions were not considered harassment.

“Sometimes I have the tendency to lash out to others on the staff … and you go hardest on the ones that you care the most about,” Meehan told The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time.

The former aide filed a sexual misconduct complaint against Meehan last summer, and he was reported to have used thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds to settle the complaint. Meehan has referred to the money as a “severance,” rather than a “settlement.”

Ryan had called for Meehan’s removal from the House Ethics Committee, and also ordered an investigation into Meehan’s settlement.

“I fully respect Congressman Meehan’s decision to resign,” National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Steve Stivers said Friday. “I’m pleased to hear he will pay back the taxpayer money used for his office’s severance payment. We must continue to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

It is now up to Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to decide whether a special election will be held for the seat before the midterm elections in November.

Fox News' Jason Donner, Chad Pergram, Nicole Darrah and The Associated Press contributed to this report.