Political Animal


July 26, 2011 12:50 PM David Wu joins parade of House resignations

By Steve Benen

Number of lawmakers in the 112th Congress who’ve resigned: Five.

Number of jobs bills voted on in the 112th Congress: Zero.

Honestly, this is getting ridiculous.

Oregon Rep. David Wu is resigning from Congress, just four days after a report in the Portland Oregonian that the Congressman had been accused of sexual misconduct.

In a statement released by his Congressional office, the seven-term Democrat from Portland said “the time has come to hand on the privilege of high office. I cannot care for my family the way I wish while serving in Congress and fighting these very serious allegations.”

It’s a sad end of a once-promising career. Wu has struggled badly with mental health issues in recent years, but the allegations of sexual misconduct were simply too serious to allow him to stay in office.

I should note, however, that Wu isn’t walking away today. In his resignation announcement, the congressman said he would give up his office “upon the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis.” And one cannot be sure when that might happen.

As for the district, it’s a pretty liberal area, and Democrats expect to keep the seat.

But in the bigger picture, when considering whether this is, in fact, the Worst Congress Ever, the spate of resignations certainly doesn’t help the reputation of the 112th. This Congress only started six months ago, but has already seen five lawmakers walk away mid-term. Worse, this Congress’ sole public mandate was to focus on job creation, and Republican lawmakers have done the exact opposite, ignoring jobs, focusing on cuts that would make unemployment worse, and creating a debt-ceiling crisis that threatens to crash the economy.

Some recent polling shows Congress’ approval rating in the mid-teens. Those who think that’s about as low as it can go are mistaken.

Postscript: Quick quiz: can you name all five resignations from 2011? I’ll put the answer after the jump for those who want to play along.

Three Democrats have resigned. California Rep. Jane Harman left to become the head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, while New York Rep. Anthony Weiner and Oregon Rep. David Wu stepped down in the wake of sex scandals.

Two Republicans have also resigned. New York Rep. Chris Lee and Nevada Sen. John Ensign both gave up their seats, both as a result of sex scandals.

Update: As matt w noted in comments, Nevada’s Dean Heller also resigned, but since he left the House to fill Ensign’s Senate vacancy, I’m inclined to leave him off the resignation list. He is, after all, still in Congress.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • sduffys on July 26, 2011 12:54 PM:

    Sure - five have resigned; yet being the anal fool that I am, should frmr. Rep Jane Harman be included in same banal grouping as the other four?

  • tom in ma on July 26, 2011 12:59 PM:

    Do the Democrats and Republicans have different norms regarding sex scandals? My impression is that Pelosi runs a no-tolerance caucus -- she wants a resignation as soon as the charges appear credible? Is the GOP on the same page?

  • Midland on July 26, 2011 1:00 PM:

    They will eventually blame it on our TV culture. It's easy to vote for a colorful buffoon or charming fool if you think-or feel--TV is reality or reality is just a TV show. In a society that routinely belittles on serious, thoughtful, mannered people, what chance do we have of electing a congress with enough serious, thoughtful, mannered members to function properly?

  • Okie on July 26, 2011 1:03 PM:

    How many have already announced their intention not to run for re-election?

    I can name one - Dan Boren (D-OK)

  • Sadie on July 26, 2011 1:03 PM:

    Maybe they should have focused on unemployment instead of jobs, jobs, jobs.

  • JS on July 26, 2011 1:03 PM:

    Ooooh.. Tricky Steve tricked me. I was thinking just of the House, since the post is "joins parade of House resignations". So I didn't come up with Ensign.

    Of course this is just another example of the party of serious governing holding itself accountable, where Ensign only resigned the day before he had to testify before the ethics committee under penalty of perjury.

  • matt w on July 26, 2011 1:07 PM:

    Steve always gets me with Ensign. For the fifth I had Dean Heller, who resigned from the House to be appointed to Ensign's Senate seat.

  • c u n d gulag on July 26, 2011 1:09 PM:

    Our 112th Congress:

    A "Do Nothing Congress" regarding jobs.
    A "Know Nothing Congress" on the Republican side.
    A "Do Harm Congress" regarding the economy in general.

    All that, and 4 guys who couldn't keep their zippers closed.

  • Bernard Gilroy on July 26, 2011 1:21 PM:

    >> Number of lawmakers in the 112th Congress who’ve resigned: Five

    5.4, if you include Bachmann...

  • SadOldVet on July 26, 2011 1:38 PM:

    The more the merrier!

    I like my Congress-Critter (Carson - D - Muslim - Black). I like Bernie Sanders and I like Al Franken. I now longer respect my Senator (Lugar) and forget it about the lobbyist who replaced the asshole Bayh.

    If the rest resigned, it would not be a major loss.

    And a Captcha 'litorts palcel' to you...

  • Hannah on July 26, 2011 1:45 PM:

    This is sad re Wu... yet there were allegations of sexual misconduct while he was in college. He obviously has some issues so I hope he gets help.

    Just tweeted on Blue Oregon's website: "Spokeswoman for @GovKitz : Governor [Kitzhaber] is working on setting date for special election to replace Rep. David Wu."

    Also on Blue Oregon: "Update, 10:27 a.m. This morning, Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden called on Wu to resign. Shortly after their statement became public, he resigned. Now, they've released a statement calling his resignation "the right choice"." Dems calling on Dems to be accountable. Good that they realize what needs to be done instead of this IOKIYAR garbage ala Vitter, Ensign, etc.

    Merkley & Wyden's statements here: http://www.blueoregon.com/2011/07/wyden-merkley-call-wus-resignation/

    captcha: species solveden... indeed

  • Hannah on July 26, 2011 1:47 PM:

    Sad Old Vet: you should love my senators, too (Merkley & Wyden). :-)

    But forget about my "representative" (hint: the only Repub in OR's delegation... Walden). Claims to be moderate yet votes with Bachmann.

  • berttheclock on July 26, 2011 2:24 PM:

    Good riddance for Wu.

    When, Tom Delay, delayed the voting for Medicare D, Wu sat on his hands for the entire 3 hour delay. The RepuGs were trying to cut deals with anyone to get this legislation passed. At the time, citizens in Oregon were in dire need for an unemployment extension, which was blocked by the RepuGs. Wu never said one thing to the RepuGs about the extension in order to vote with them. Instead of being pragmatic (If you are going to sell out, at least get something for the vote), he sat in silence until the needed RepuG votes turned the tide. Then, he voted with the RepuGs. Afterwards, he mumbled something about working for a better deal for seniors at a later date. Fortunately, I live in Blumenhauer's district. He is a true Democrat, whereas Wu is one of the who knows variety?

  • Beep52 on July 26, 2011 2:39 PM:

    I find the "worst Congress" contest a bit disingenuous because it combines individual failings with collective failings of Congress."

    Even with zero resignations, the last Senate would rank among the worst for the number of filibusters it forced.

    ANd even with zero resignations, this House would be among the worst for its overall ignorance, inability to compromise and willingness to hold hostage the economy, the environment and major segments of the public in order to get its way.

  • j on July 26, 2011 3:18 PM:

    Any update on when David Vitter will do the right thing?

  • Crissa on July 26, 2011 4:08 PM:

    Wu was bound to resign; he's been having trouble keeping his head in the game. He was a good legislator in the past, but that's the past. He really shouldn't have won most recently, but... Past is what you run on.

    I hope he's able to get treatment. He should have had the best treatment from the House doctor, but his troubles led him to refuse, or so I heard.