WASHINGTON -- Rep. Michael Myers, D-Pa., was expelled from the House Thursday on a 376-30 vote, becoming the first member thrown out since the Civil War. He said he would ask a federal court to reinstate him.
Myers, who did not cast a vote during the proceedings, was convicted in August of taking a bribe from FBI undercover agents who convinced him they represented an Arab sheik seeking congressional favors.
He is up for re-election Nov. 4, and if he wins, the House would be forced to decide whether to expel him a second time.
Later, Myers' attorneys filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court seeking to overturn his expulsion, and in the Supreme Court seeking a review of the entire Abscam investigation.
Shortly before the vote, Myers said, 'I know what it feels like now to sit on Death Row. In a way, I'm waiting for execution.'
But he displayed a fighting spirit after the vote, which was far more than the two-thirds majority needed to oust him. Myers promptly announced plans to file suit in U.S. District Court demanding he be reinstated.
Leaving his office later, Myers told reporters, 'I am leaving Washington and going back to America.' He then stepped into a Mercedes and was driven away. His destination or immediate plans were not known.
Myers' office door was locked, but a staff member said it is being run under authority of the clerk of the House.
He is only the fourth member of Congress ever expelled from the House. The other three were ousted in 1861 for joining the Confederate Army. Only 17 other attempts have been made to expel members and the last one failed almost 60 years ago.
Many House members had seen FBI videotapes which showed Myers asking for and accepting money from undercover agents.
In his own defense, Myers noted he has not been sentenced yet and asked his colleagues not to join 'a lynching mob, because that is exactly what I think this is.'
As for the tapes, he said, 'My actions, as were viewed on those video tapes, certainly was not Ozzie Myers. I was following a script that was given to me. I was set up from the word go.'
'What you see on film is strictly play acting,' Myers said. 'I'm telling you once you know I got led into this trap, you will understand how it happened, and how it could happen again.'
But Rep. Charles Bennett, D-Fla., said Myers was convicted by his own action on the video tapes, adding, 'In this instance, the integrity of the House is at stake.'
Rep. Wyche Fowler, D-Ga., said Congress should investigate the entire Abscam operation, which led to indictments of six House members and one senator. But he said Myers should be expelled because he had admitted taking the money.
The House approved a House ethics committee resolution which read: 'Resolved, pursuant to article I, section 5, clause 2 of the United States Constitution, Representative Michael J. Myers be, and he hereby is, expelled from the House of Representatives.'
Members voted earlier 332-75 against putting off the issue until after the November election. Rep. Louis Stokes, D-Ohio, who made the proposal, said, 'I cannot in good conscience vote to expel a member ... when there has been no final judgment.'
Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., said members 'should not decide it in a pre-election atmosphere.'
But Rep. Jonathan Bingham, D-N.Y., said, 'We have it from Mr. Myers himself that he sold his office ... Even to defer a decision would be deemed a cop-out, and deservedly so ... We must preserve as best we can the integrity of this institution.'
Myers' lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charged his expulsion was unconstitutional because the ethics committee failed to follow its rules in voting for his ouster. Named as defendants were Speaker Thomas O'Neill, House Clerk Edmund Henshaw and three other House officials.
The lawsuit said committee rules provide for a hearing following a congressman's conviction of a criminal offense. 'I was not given a fair trial,' Myers told reporters. 'They violated their own rules.'
The Supreme Court suit asked the high court to review whether the executive branch exceeded its authority in the Abscam operation.
It claimed the Abscam operation tempted and lured congressmen into violating the law, thus violating the constitutional separation of powers of the executive, judicial and congressional branches of government.