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Lukens to resign amid new charges

Rep. Donald E. "Buz" Lukens, R-Ohio, facing a fresh charge of sexual misconduct, reportedly will resign his House seat today under pressure from House Republican leaders concerned about one more pre-election blow to Congress' already battered image. "There'll be a resignation by tomorrow," House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel, R-Ill., said in an interview Tuesday as the House ethics committee began investigating allegations that Lukens fondled and propositioned a young elevator operator in the Capitol last week.

Lukens, 59, who was convicted last year on a misdemeanor charge of having sex with an underage girl, said through an aide only that he was considering resignation.

However, another top House GOP leader said that Lukens had promised the ethics panel that a letter of resignation would be delivered by noon Wednesday to Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste.

The leader, who requested anonymity, said that Lukens had been pressured to resign not only to spare Congress further shame amid ethics scandals and budget fiascoes, but also to jolt the Ohio lawmaker into getting professional help.

Some Republican strategists also said they feared that failure to force Lukens out of the House could damage GOP congressional candidates in elections less than two weeks away. But others discounted such an impact.

Lukens was trounced in his primary re-election bid last May and has less than three months left in his fifth term in the House.

Sources said that the ethics panel had decided not to seek disciplinary action against Lukens in the first sex case because he had been rejected by voters back home and would be gone from the House by January.

But when the new allegation arose, the committee moved unusually fast, shortcutting procedures and summoning Lukens to appear in a closed session Tuesday. The panel was widely expected to recommend punishment by the full House before Congress adjourned this week or next.