Congressional Steel Caucus Chairman Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 26, 2015, during a hearing of the caucus to discuss the state of the U.S. steel industry.
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Sex scandal costs House Republican his job

— Updated

Rep. Tim Murphy's (R-Pa.) sex scandal evolved slowly, but ended abruptly. We learned about a month ago that the Pennsylvania Republican, who's taken a far-right stance on social issues, had an extra-marital affair. The story grew more serious this week when evidence emerged that Murphy, a staunch opponent of abortion rights, reportedly pressed his mistress to have an abortion.

Within a day of the details coming to light, the GOP lawmaker announced he wouldn't seek re-election. Yesterday, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, Murphy went one step further.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy decided to resign from Congress Thursday — one day after the beleaguered Congressman said he would serve out his term, and just two days after the Post-Gazette reported claims that he mistreated staff and urged a woman to have an abortion despite his anti-abortion politics.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said he received a letter of resignation, effective Oct. 21, from the Upper St. Clair Republican. "It was Dr. Murphy's decision to move on to the next chapter of his life, and I support it," Mr. Ryan said in a statement.

Murphy is the first member to resign in disgrace so far in this Congress, which is actually a step up: at this point in the last Congress, we'd already seen two Republicans resign in disgrace.

One of the lingering questions, though, is why this controversy ended Murphy's career. Some congressional Republicans, such as Indiana's Mark Souder, have been forced to quit in the aftermath of a sex scandal, while others, such as Tennessee's Scott DesJarlais and Louisiana's David Vitter, stuck around and won re-election despite personal controversies along these lines.

So what is it that made Murphy feel the need to quit?

The answer may have something to do with how he conducted himself as a member of Congress. Politico published this rather remarkable article overnight:

Multiple top House Republicans during the past 24 hours pressured Murphy to resign once it became clear that the House Ethics Committee might have to investigate allegations tied to his reported mistreatment of staffers. Numerous GOP sources were aware of systemic problems in Murphy's office, including high staff turnover, which had been the topic of gossip and speculation for years.

The Post-Gazette had reported on a June 2017 memo in which Murphy's longtime chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, warned the Pennsylvania Republican that he was mistreating and "harassing" staff, causing 100 percent turnover.

As for the near future, Nate Cohn believes it "isn't totally impossible" for Dems to compete in Pennsylvania's 18th district, though it's probably worth noting that Donald Trump won in this district by nearly 20 points last year.

Postscript: The NRCC, confident of keeping Murphy's seat, boasted yesterday that House Republicans are "undefeated in special elections this year." For the record, that's not quite true: Democrats won easily in California's 34th district in June, and in state special elections, Democrats have actually had an excellent year.