Republican Matt Gaetz should at least be removed from the US House Judiciary Committee if claims of a sexual relationship with an underage girl are true, says Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi said on Thursday the House Ethics Committee should also consider the allegations against the Floridian Congressman.
Gaetz, 38, who has been one of former president Donald Trump's closest allies since arriving in Washington in 2017, has meanwhile reiterated that the accusations are wrong.
Asked if Gaetz should resign from Congress or lose his committee seat, Pelosi didn't specifically address the more severe step.
"If in fact these allegations are true, of course being removed from the Judiciary Committee is the least that could be done," Pelosi told reporters.
She added, "From what we've heard so far, this would be a matter for the Ethics Committee."
The Ethics panel, made up of five members from each party, can recommend punishments ranging from a reprimand or formal rebuke to expulsion, which is rare partly because lawmakers often resign first.
The full House would have to approve such actions, with expulsion requiring two-thirds majority.
Pelosi's comments fell short of the swift removal from the Judiciary Committee sought by at least one Democrat.
But the remarks still left the political future clouded for Gaetz, who is under federal investigation over accusations he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid her to travel with him, two people familiar with the matter say.
Pelosi's remarks came about two months after the House, on a mostly party-line vote, took the unprecedented step of removing Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene from both her committees.
That was in reaction to her history of spreading threatening and false conspiracy theories on social media.
Justice Department investigators are trying to determine whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws.
The Judiciary Committee oversees the Justice Department.
On Wednesday, Democrat Ted Lieu tweeted that Gaetz should not be "sitting on the Congressional Committee that has oversight over the Department investigating him".
Gaetz has so far received little support from fellow Republicans.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says the accusations are "serious" and if proved, Gaetz would be removed from committees. He's also on the Armed Services Committee.
"The allegations against me are FALSE," Gaetz tweeted on Thursday.
He also repeated his assertion the charges are related to an alleged attempt to extort his family.