Politics

Speaker Ryan Strips Chris Collins of Committee Membership

Leadership move is not uncommon against scandal-plagued members

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who was indicted Monday on securities fraud charges, attends a House Energy and Commerce Committee markup in Rayburn Building on June 28, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan has removed Rep. Chris Collins from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, following Collins indictment Wednesday on charges of insider trading and lying to authorities.

“Insider trading is a clear violation of the public trust. Until this matter is settled, Rep. Collins will no longer be serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee,” Ryan said in a statement.

Collins served on the panel’s Health and Communications and Technology subcommittees.

Ryan also called for a “prompt and thorough” investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which took up an inquiry into Collins last August regarding his sharing nonpublic information about the Australian biotechnology company, Innate Immunotherapeutics.

The Ethics Committee released a report in October 2017 committee, but no further action has been taken since then.

Collins has served on Innate’s board of directors and is the company’s largest shareholder. The biotech company is trying to develop a treatment for multiple sclerosis. 

Collins passed nonpublic information about Innate’s drug trial results to his son to help him “make timely trades in Innate stock and tip others,” the indictment alleges.

While wanting an investigation into possible violations of House rules, Ryan said Collins’s guilt or innocence is a question for the courts to settle.

In January, Ryan removed Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan from his assignment on the House Ethics Committee after it was revealed that he used of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint with a former staffer.

It’s common practice for leaders to remove embattled members from committee assignments or pressure them behind the scenes to resign from their posts or Congress. 

Another recent example is former Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers stepping aside as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee amid sexual harassment allegations last year before later succumbing to pressure to resign from Congress. 

In 2014, New York GOP Rep. Michael Grimm asked Speaker John A. Boehner to be removed from the House Financial Services Committee after he was indicted on 12 counts of fraud. Boehner complied. Grimm, who was later convicted of tax fraud, ran for his old seat this year but lost the primary to Rep. Dan Donovan

In 2006 the Democratic Caucus voted to remove Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson from the Ways and Means Committee amid an ongoing bribery investigation. 

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