Politics

McConnell: Sen. Stevens Should Resign or Face Expulsion

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, convicted by a jury Monday of making false statements on financial disclosure forms, faces a swift expulsion from the U.S. Senate if he does not immediately resign, said Republican U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell, R-Ky., told the Lexington Kentucky-Leader newspaper that Stevens, now a convicted felon, “should resign immediately.”

“If he did not do that … there is a 100 percent certainty that he would be expelled from the Senate,” McConnell, who is locked in a tough reelection race, told the Kentucky-Leader.

The senate would need to secure a two-thirds vote to expel Stevens.

Either way, McConnell said, Stevens’ 40-year senate career is over.  

“The Senate would have zero tolerance for the continued service of a convicted felon,” McConnell told the Kentucky-Leader.

McConnell office issued a statement Tuesday saying Stevens, having been found guilty, “must face the consequences of those actions” and “will be held accountable so the public trust can be restored.”

Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, is up for reelection next week in a tight race against Democrat Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage.

On Monday, he vowed to continue campaigning until Election Day despite the jury’s guilty verdict and he has signaled that he won’t give up his senate seat. Stevens told his wife Monday “it’s not over yet” after the Washington, D.C. jury rendered a verdict after three days of deliberations.

“I am obviously disappointed in the verdict but not surprised given the repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct in this case,” Stevens said Monday. “I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have. I am innocent. This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial. I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate.”

If Stevens is reelected he faces an automatic Senate Ethics Investigation, which would begin when he returns to Washington.

The Associated Press reported that Stevens’ felony conviction does not require that he drop out of the senate race.

“If he wins re-election, he can continue to hold his seat because there is no rule barring felons from serving in Congress,” the Associated Press reported.

Stevens faces up to 35 years in prison when he is sentenced in January, but is likely to receive a much lighter sentence. Moreover, President George W. Bush can pardon Stevens upon leaving the White House wipe his felony conviction from his record.

Stevens, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968 and is known to Alaskans as “Uncle Ted,” was indicted in July and charged with seven felony counts of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms in connection with $250,0000 in gifts he received from oil-field services company Veco Corporation and its former chief executive Bill Allen. Stevens plead not guilty to the charges. He asked for a speedy trial hoping to be exonerated of the charges before the Nov. 4 election.

On Tuesday, several prominent Republican lawmakers-many of whom are up for reelection and are in real jeopardy of losing to their Democratic opponents-called on Stevens to resign regardless of whether Stevens appeals his conviction or if voters reelect him to another term.

“Service in the Senate demands the highest ethical standards,” Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, his conviction proved that he has failed to meet those standards and he should resign immediately.”

Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, also weighed in on Tuesday and called on Stevens to resign.

“It is clear that Sen. Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down,” McCain said.

Palin, who had worked closely with Stevens on Alaska issues, said “even if elected on Tuesday, Senator Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress.”

But McHugh Pierre, a spokesman for the Alaska Republican Party, however, said it’s crucial for Alaskans to rally behind Stevens and elect him to another term on Nov. 4.

“We need to continue to support Sen. Stevens,” Pierre said. “We need to vote for him because a vote for him is a vote for a conservative candidate, a Republican who best represents the interests and beliefs of Alaskans.”

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that with the Republican Party “bracing for losses in the upcoming election, many hope Stevens will first win re-election next Tuesday, and then resign to give Republicans a chance to fill the seat with a fresh GOP face.”

“Democrats, who now hold a razor-thin 51-49 majority in the Senate, have targeted Stevens’ seat as part of their bid to build a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority,” the AP reported. “At a minimum, they are expected to get a lot closer to it on Tuesday. That makes it harder for Republicans to swallow the idea of Stevens resigning now.”

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