Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican who faced pressure to resign after sexual harassment allegations - but said he would retire at the end of his current term instead - unexpectedly announced Friday he would step down effective immediately.
"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," he said in a statement.
In December, amid renewed concerns about sexual harassment on Capitol Hill, the House Ethics Committee moved to revisit claims that Farenthold sexually harassed a former aide and retaliated against her when she filed a complaint.
Farenthold has denied the allegations against him and promised to pay back the government $84,000 in taxpayer funds used to settle the sexual harassment complaint filed against him in 2014.
While his office said he planned to take out a loan to make the repayment, a spokeswoman has repeatedly declined to say whether he has reimbursed taxpayers as promised.
“I hope Blake is true to his word and pays back the $84,000 of taxpayer money he used as a settlement," Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement Friday. "As I have said repeatedly, Congress must hold ourselves to a higher standard and regain the trust of the American people.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan expects Farenthold to make good on his promise to repay, the speaker's spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.
"Mr. Farenthold made a commitment that he would reimburse taxpayers for the settlement," Strong said. "He reiterated his commitment to the speaker and the speaker expects him to follow through.”
Farenthold, who had been active on social media during the congressional work period this month, appeared to have deleted his Twitter account by Friday afternoon.
Spokeswoman Stacey Kafka did not respond to questions about his Twitter account and whether he plans to repay the Treasury for the settlement.