Mr. Franks, who made his name with strident social conservatism and adamant opposition to abortion in all forms, said he would step aside at the end of January rather than wait for the outcome of the investigation.
He is the third lawmaker to step down from office this week over accusations related to sexual harassment, and the second on Thursday alone.
And at the same time it announced an inquiry into Mr. Franks’s behavior, the Ethics Committee disclosed that it had formed an investigative subcommittee to look at whether Representative Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas, had sexually harassed a former staff member and “retaliated against her for complaining about discriminatory conduct.” The committee said it would also examine whether Mr. Farenthold had made inappropriate statements to other staff members.
News of Mr. Franks’s pending announcement swept through the House Republican Conference on Thursday evening while members were on the floor to vote on a stopgap funding measure to keep the government open past Friday. At one point, Mr. Franks and several other Republicans huddled on the House floor in what appeared to be a group prayer.
In his statement, he said he was certain he “would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation.”
“Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media” to harm “those things I love most,” he continued, “this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of Jan. 31, 2018.”
Mr. Franks denied that he had ever “physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”
The surprising nighttime development followed a dramatic Thursday morning scene on the other side of the Capitol, where Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, resigned in the face of mounting accusations that he had groped women. Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, announced he would step down earlier in the week.
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