House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), opening what could become a bitter partisan fight, said Tuesday that he favors a censure, rather than a milder reprimand, for Rep. Barney Frank for using his office to help a male prostitute.
Gingrich said he was not speaking for the House leadership, but his role as the chamber's second-ranking Republican could influence conservatives wavering between a censure and the lesser reprimand proposed by the Ethics Committee.
A reprimand is the lowest form of punishment voted on by the full House and would involve approval of the ethics report. Frank's presence would not be required.
A censure would require Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, to stand before his colleagues during the procedure. Also, Democratic caucus rules would require Frank, after a censure, to be stripped of the chairmanship of the House Judiciary subcommittee on administrative law and governmental relations.
Gingrich said he based his conclusion on one of two official actions by Frank that, according to the committee, brought discredit on the House. He referred to a 1986 Frank memo that contained misleading information favorable to the male prostitute, Stephen L. Gobie, who was convicted of sex and drug charges and was on probation at the time.
The Ethics Committee said also that Frank broke the rules when he used his office to have 33 parking tickets incurred by Gobie dismissed, and it recommended that the House order him to make restitution to the District of Columbia.