WASHINGTON — Rep. Blake Farenthold announced Friday that he has resigned from Congress, months after details surfaced about his use of $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim lodged by a former employee.
"While I planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it's time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve,” the Texas Republican said in a statement. "Therefore, I sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott today resigning from the House of Representatives effective at 5 p.m."
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It's unclear what suddenly prompted him to leave Washington. His official Twitter account appeared to have been deleted as of Friday afternoon.
Farenthold had previously said he would retire from Congress at the end of the year. He has represented Texas’s 27th Congressional District since 2011. He was elected as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010, defeating longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Solomon Ortiz.
In early December, it was reported that he had used the congressional Office of Compliance account to settle a sexual harassment claim from 2014. He later promised to pay back the $84,000.
In his statement Friday, he did not address the sexual harassment claim or the allegations of verbal abuse and discrimination in his office. He previously acknowledged an "unprofessional" workplace in a December video.
The chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, said in a statement Friday that he hopes that Farenthold "is true to his word and pays back the $84,000 of taxpayer money he used as a settlement." Stivers added that he’s confident that a Republican will be elected to the seat in November.
AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said: "Mr. Farenthold made a commitment that he would reimburse taxpayers for the settlement. He reiterated his commitment to the speaker and the speaker expects him to follow through.”
The #MeToo movement that has sent ripple effects across multiple industries since the Harvey Weinstein scandal resulted in several resignations from Congress last year. Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Trent Franks, R-Ariz., along with Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., all faced sexual misconduct allegations.