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Could Michael Grimm keep his House seat after pleading guilty to tax evasion?

Could Michael Grimm keep his House seat after pleading guilty to tax evasion?

The decision by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) to plead guilty to tax evasion does not technically prevent him from keeping his House seat, even though pressure from within the Republican Party still seems likely to result in his resignation in the coming days.

A May report from the Congressional Research Service said there are no rules either in law or in the Constitution that prevent convicted felons from serving.

Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 2.10.23 PM Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) can technically keep his seat in the House after his guilty plea, although political pressure is another factor that could force him out.
Image: AP Photo/John Minchillo

"Members of Congress do not automatically forfeit their offices upon conviction of a crime that constitutes a felony," that report said. "No express constitutional disability or 'disqualification' from Congress exists for the conviction of a crime, other than under the Fourteenth Amendment for certain treasonous conduct by someone who has taken an oath of office to support the Constitution."

However, Grimm would be prevented by House rules from voting if he decided to keep his seat. House rules say members can't vote if they have been convicted of a crime for which the punishment could be two years or more in prison.

That voting restriction would be in place "until his or her presumption of innocence is restored, or until he or she is re-elected. The House Ethics Committee has said members are expected to live by this rule, and has said attempts to vote by convicted felons would result in possible disciplinary action.

Grimm knowingly understated income at a restaurant he co-owned from 2007 to 2009, and failed to report cash wages to the restaurant's workers. Grimm also admitted to providing false testimony while under oath — for those admissions, he could face up to three years in prison.

The inability to vote would like add more pressure on the Republican Party to get Grimm out of the House, since constituents in his New York district would be left without a voice in Congress.

As of Wednesday, however, there was still no sign Grimm was ready to give up his seat. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was expected to meet with Grimm at some point, but until then, Boehner's office had no comment on the matter.

In the meantime, Democrats have already been calling on Boehner to force Grimm out.

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