WASHINGTON – Ohio Rep. Jim Traficant, under indictment on bribery and other charges, remains a man without a home in the House. And, if it's up to House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Traficant will stay that way.
"I have told Jim myself, and told him some time ago, it would not be in his best interest to join the Republican Party," Armey said Tuesday. "He doesn't get his mile of slack if he's a Republican and Jim needs a mile of slack."
Traficant, a Democrat known for theatrics, was re-elected in November to his ninth term from a blue-collar district along the Ohio-Pennsylvania line. He was kicked out of the Democratic caucus in January because he voted for GOP Rep. Dennis Hastert to remain House speaker.
Many thought he'd find a home with the Republican caucus, but he hasn't requested inclusion and GOP leaders haven't offered it. Since party leaders divvy up committee seats, Traficant is the only currently serving House member with no committee assignment.
A federal grand jury in Cleveland indicted Traficant last week on charges including conspiracy, bribery, racketeering and filing false tax returns.
Armey, R-Texas, did not address the indictment but described Traficant in general as "an interesting guy" who "clearly marches to his own drummer."
"There's only one like him," Armey said.
Traficant typically gives a short, colorful speech during the opening hour of each day's House session. Many end with a request, "Beam me up."
On Tuesday he used the speech to blast oil companies and to criticize the government for not being more aggressive in investigating what's behind recent gas price hikes.
"Those so-called government investigators are either on the payroll of those oil companies or they're smoking dope," he said.
Traficant has yet to publicly address the charges against him. He has said he will discuss them later this month on a radio show in Youngstown, Ohio.
Tuesday was Traficant's 60th birthday.