New York Democrat Eric Massa, who announced last week that he will resign from the House, claims he's being forced out by an administration hell-bent on passing a health care bill. "Now they've gotten rid of me and it will pass," Massa said, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. The pretext is what he describes as a "salty" remark at a New Year's eve wedding reception, which, in his telling, involves Battlestar Galactica's geek-and-censor friendly F-bomb substitute, "fracking." Fox News has Massa's version of the story:
Massa said he had just gotten up to sing Auld Lang Syne and had finished dancing with the bride and bridesmaid—in full view of cameras—when he sat back down at a table with male staff members.
That's when he made the "inappropriate" remark.
"One of them looked at me and, as they would do after, I don't know, 15 gin and tonics, and goodness only knows how many bottles of champagne, a staff member made an intonation to me that maybe I should be chasing after the bridesmaid, and his points were clear and his words were far more colorful than that.
"And I grabbed the staff member sitting next to me and said, 'Well, what I really ought to be doing is fracking you,'" he said.
"And then [I] tousled the guy's hair and left, went to my room, because I knew the party was getting to a point where it wasn't right for me to be there. Now was that inappropriate of me? Absolutely. Am I guilty? Yes."
But Massa said the staff member "never said to me that he felt uncomfortable" and "never went to anybody."
Rather, he said "somebody went to another staff member who was uncomfortable for him. It was a third-party political correctness statement."
Okay, so "fracking" is probably not the word he actually used.
Whatever he did say, though, the end result is that, after declaring early last week that he would not seek reelection, Massa announced on Friday that he would resign due to ethics problems. But over the weekend, he let it be known that he thought the ethics complaints were bunk—an excuse to get him out of the seat and pass health reform. According to his account, he wasn't aware of ethics complaints against him at all until after his retirement announcement.
So is this a political power play? Or are House Democrats actually worried about Massa's behavior? It's tough to say. Massa's wedding story makes it seem as if leadership is using a basically harmless incident in order to push him out. But other reports indicate a history of complaints about his behavior, and there are some inconsistencies to his story. Politico, for example, details a potential problem with Massa's timeline:
Massa's assertion that he did not learn that he was under investigation by the ethics committee until after making his retirement announcement appears to contradict the facts of the case.
Joe Racalto, Massa's chief of staff, told a Rochester TV station on Thursday that he was interviewed by ethics committee investigators several weeks ago in regards to the sexual harassment allegations against Massa, well before the case became a public scandal or Massa announced his intentions to leave the House.
Just as odd, at least to me, is that Massa is convinced that he's the final vote on health care reform. It's true that his resignation gets rid of a probable no vote and, by reducing the number of total votes in the House, reduces the number of votes Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs to come up with in order to pass the chamber's 50-percent-plus-one threshold. But Massa is a liberal who voted against the bill from the left (he supports single payer). And the real sticking points for the reform bill right now are the worries of moderate Democrats: abortion and cost control. For Massa's story to work, he needs to position himself as a pivotal vote, and while his resignation certainly won't hurt reform, it's not clear that it will be enough to push it over the finish line either.
Either way, though, it looks like at this point, Massa's legislative career is pretty well fracked.