The House Ethics Committee notified Rep. Duncan Hunter that his recent guilty plea means he should no longer cast votes in the House. The instruction is not mandatory, but the panel threatened action against him if he continues to vote.
Hunter last voted on Wednesday, in favor of a measure to crack down on robocalls. He did not weigh in on any of the four roll call votes the House took on Thursday.
The California Republican pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiring with his wife, Margaret, to knowingly and willfully convert his campaign funds for personal expenditures. He faces a maximum of five years in prison; a maximum $250,000 fine; and a maximum of three years supervised release.
The Thursday letter from House Ethics specifies that Hunter “should refrain from voting on any question at a meeting of the House,” until or unless a court reinstates the presumption of his innocence. It says he could resume voting if reelected to the House despite the guilty plea.
The letter, written by Ethics chairman Ted Deutch of Florida and ranking member Kenny Marchant, a Texas Republican, says the provision governing convicted lawmakers was created “to preserve public confidence in the legislative process when a sitting Member of Congress has been convicted of a serious crime.”
The panel issued a serious warning, writing “in the strongest possible terms,” that if Hunter continues to vote in the House, he will be subject to action by the committee, by the House — and that disciplinary action could be taken in connection with his conviction. The House Ethics investigation into Hunter was put on hold at the request of the Justice Department while it pursued the case against him.
Following the indictment, Republican leaders in the House stripped Hunter of his committee assignments. Barred from voting on the House floor and with no committee responsibilities, Hunter’s role in Congress is deeply diminished.
Hunter met with GOP leaders in Washington after his guilty plea this week and is expected to make a public statement about his future in Congress.
Hunter has been dogged by ethics, campaign finance, legal and personal trouble since 2016. In August 2018 the Hunters were indicted for allegedly using $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, including dental work and trips to Italy and Hawaii.
In June, Margaret Hunter entered a guilty plea in the federal campaign finance case against her and her husband. She pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to misuse of campaign funds.
Chris Marquette contributed to this report.