The Conyers Conundrum for Democrats

There are starting to be calls coming from House Democrats for Rep. John Conyers to resign over the allegations of sexual harassment, with the principal reason being that he paid a dodgy settlement (who pays severance to a “temporary employee”?) out of his office account, rather than through the House Office of Compliance, where the other $15 million in settlements have been paid out.  This seems to be a rather thinly-sliced distinction: from the taxpayer point of view, does it matter whether the settlement money came from the Office of Compliance or Conyers’s own office budget? It’s pretty hard to call this a coverup when all of the other settlements have been covered up too.

Politico had this observation two days ago:

The Conyers case is especially sensitive for Democrats given his age — 88 — seniority, and race. Conyers is the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. He is also one of the co-founders of the CBC, a key bloc of votes within the House Democratic Caucus. Pelosi and other Democrats have been especially cautious in dealing with ethics and legal problems involving CBC members.

“This is a huge, huge problem for us,” said an aide to one longtime Democrat. “I don’t know how Pelosi is going to handle this.”

But since this was published, Conyers’s CBC immunity from accountability seems to be dissipating rapidly.

No one is admitting the real reason Democrats want to use the sexual harassment allegations to force him out, though it is hinted at in the story above. At 88, Conyers is borderline senile, barely able to function competently as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. This is not even a secret for anyone on Capitol Hill, but no one will speak of it openly.

But if Democrats win a majority in the House in next year’s midterm election, they are going to want to impeach President Trump. Impeachment will have to go through the House Judiciary Committee first, and Conyers clearly isn’t up to the job of running a serious (or even non-serious) impeachment proceeding. So the time has come to clear him out as battlespace preparation. Add to that the obvious ambition for either Jerry Nadler or Zoe Lofgren to succeed Conyers as the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and it all makes sense.

Of course, if Democrats force Conyers out, it will raise the question of consistency about their disposition with regard to Al Franken’s mounting problems, not to mention to up to 25 House members rumored to be under scrutiny for sexual harassment. Sooner or later (sooner I expect), the numerous settlements the House has made will become public, and it could be the biggest scandal to hit Capitol Hill since the House banking scandal of 1990. Franken and other Democrats may have to become collateral damage in service of the overriding goal of impeaching Trump.

Pass the popcorn.

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