It’s a Friday afternoon, so it was probably inevitable that a member of Congress would quietly slink away.
When 2018 got underway, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) appeared to be a member in good standing, looking ahead to a competitive re-election bid. Today, the Pennsylvania Republican, who was already slated to retire at the end of his term, resigned altogether.
“With the knowledge I would not be standing for another term, I have decided that stepping down now is in the interest of the constituents I have been honored to serve. […]
“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. And since I have chosen to resign, the inquiry will not become a burden to taxpayers and committee staff.”
In case anyone’s forgotten, Meehan, a married father of three, took an interest in a young woman who worked in his office and considered him something of a father figure. Meehan reportedly professed his romantic interest in the aide – the congressman told the aide he considered her his “soul mate” – and when she rebuffed his advances, the congressman reportedly “grew hostile.”
The Pennsylvania Republican – a former federal prosecutor – later said he felt “invited” to express his romantic feelings to the aide because they shared ice cream after work.
The staffer ultimately quit, initiated the complaint process with the congressional Office of Compliance, and quietly received a taxpayer-financed settlement. Meehan said in his resignation statement that he will repay American taxpayers $39,000 to cover the cost of the agreement.
And we wait for Meehan’s check to arrive, let’s also pause to put his Friday news dump in some perspective: doesn’t it seem as if there’s been an enormous number of resignations in this Congress?
At last count, one member has stepped down for health reasons (Mississippi’s Thad Cochran), one member resigned to seek a statewide office (California’s Xavier Becerra), five members gave up their seats to serve in the Trump administration (Georgia’s Tom Price, South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney, Kansas’ Mike Pompeo, Montana’s Ryan Zinke, and Oklahoma’s Jim Bridenstine), six resigned under a cloud of scandal (Arizona’s Trent Franks, Michigan’s John Conyers, Pennsylvania’s Tim Murphy, Minnesota’s Al Franken, Texas’ Blake Farenthold, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Meehan), and two stepped down because they didn’t feel like being in Congress anymore (Ohio’s Pat Tiberi and Utah’s Jason Chaffetz).
A recent FiveThirtyEight analysis noted, “If that feels like a lot, that’s because it is; it’s the most people who have resigned from Congress through this point in the session in at least 117 years.”
Put it this way: when the number of congressional resignations easily trumps the number of major congressional legislative accomplishments, all is not well on Capitol Hill.