MICHELE NORRIS, host:
A one-term Democratic congressman from western New York resigned today, forced out by an ethics investigation. But Congressman Eric Massa accused top Democrats of muscling him out of Congress because he opposes the health care bill.
NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY: Massa is a Naval Academy graduate and to hear him describe it was gruff and often profane as a naval officer. He said that kind of language was the basis for the ethics complaint that caused him to resign. He gave his account Sunday on his weekly show on WKPQ-FM in Hornell, New York. According to Massa, he and some staffers were at a wedding reception on New Year's Eve drinking heavily.
Representative ERIC MASSA (Democrat, New York): 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 frakking you. And then tousled the guy's hair and left.
OVERBY: He said he could see it wasn't right for him to stay at the party. Massa apologized for that, as he had before. But then he leveled a new charge -that powerful Democrats used the ethics case to oust him from Congress.
Rep. MASSA: This administration and this House leadership have said, quote unquote, "They will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill." And now they've gotten rid of me and it'll pass. You connect the dots.
OVERBY: Before the broadcast, Massa's departure from the House was framed by two competing stories: the ethics case and his story that his cancer might have come back. But on Sunday's broadcast, Massa wasn't talking so much about his health. He was talking about the health care overhaul. He had been one of 39 House Democrats who opposed it. Now he said it was his vote and his vote alone that could tip the outcome in the House. And it was his vote, he said, that triggered a vendetta against him.
Rep. MASSA: I was set up for this from the very, very beginning. If you think that somehow they didn't come after me to get rid of me because my vote is a deciding vote in the health care bill, then ladies and gentlemen, you live today in a world that is so innocent as to not understand what's going on in Washington, D.C.
OVERBY: But Massa's math doesn't add up.
Mr. RICHARD KIRSCH (Director, Health Care for America Now): Obviously every vote's important, but there's no one key vote.
OVERBY: Richard Kirsch heads up a coalition called Health Care for America Now. He points out that votes are in play from a few big blocks of Democratic lawmakers - those from conservative districts, anti-abortion lawmakers nervous that the bill isn't tough enough on their issue and progressives who worry it might not reach broadly enough on theirs.
Mr. KIRSCH: The fact is, until there's a final bill, members aren't making commitments to what they're going to do.
OVERBY: Massa's resignation took effect at 5 p.m. today. But just in case you haven't heard enough, he's booked onto the Glenn Beck show tomorrow. Beck says Massa will get the whole hour.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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