by Kagro X
To be precise, it has no mechanism for investigating or disciplining members who violate ethics rules. The proximate cause of this breakdown is the revolt by the five Democrats on the evenly divided ethics committee. Led by the ranking Democrat, Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.), committee Democrats understandably balked last week at acceding to new rules for how the panel should conduct its business -- rules dictated by the GOP leadership and slanted toward making the ethics process, already tilted in favor of gridlock, even more feckless.
Procedure from this point is unclear, but without an agreed-upon set of rules, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, better known as the Ethics Committee, simply cannot function. That's probably a relief to some House Republicans, but not all.
In fact, despite the iron fist with which Speaker Dennis Hastert and Republican Leader Tom DeLay typically control the House, DeLay's non-stop parade of ethical embarrassments to the Republican Conference has him on shaky ground, and given the backlash against the so-called "DeLay Rule" just a short time ago, it's not even clear that a majority can be mustered to save his bacon again.
Mollohan's bill, H. Res. 131, seeks to repeal or amend what remains of the ethics rules changes passed on a strict, party line vote at the opening of the current Congress. While the most outrageous change and the one we are most familiar with -- the abovementioned "DeLay Rule" -- was in fact an internal rule of the Republican Conference, the Mollohan bill seeks to undo changes made to the Rules of the House. In a highly unusual move, Republicans used the vehicle of the House rules package, traditionally offered when a new Congress convenes, to make direct changes in the operating procedures of the Ethics Committe. Typically, the Committee's Membership, evenly divided between the two parties, meets and enacts its rules on its own. This time, however, House Republicans used their majority in the full body to attempt to force changes protective of DeLay on the Committee.
But without changing the party divisions on the Committee -- a move that would almost certainly trigger more outrage than the Republican Conference would care to entertain -- the even split between Republicans and Democrats has been enough to block the adoption of the rules changes that the GOP House majority attempted to force. In its place, however, there are no rules. Which means there's no ethics process. Which means that the emerging details of DeLay's continuing battle with his ethics demons will go uninvestigated by the House. What luck, eh?
Except it turns out that not all Republicans -- among them many who actually worry about "moral authority" as opposed to just mouthing the words -- are pleased with their renewed role as lipstick for their incorrigible Texan pig.
At least six Republicans expressed concern over the weekend about DeLay's situation. They said they do not think DeLay necessarily deserves the unwanted attention he is receiving. But they said that the volume of the revelations about his operation is becoming alarming and that they do not see how it will abate.
Who are those six? The article doesn't identify them, but they're likely among the dozen or so Republicans who publicly distanced themselves from the "DeLay Rule" the first time around -- that is, before mounting pressure forced DeLay himself to cave. They are:
Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.) said the rule change had merit, but the timing was wrong. "It looks as if we're trying to protect one of our own," he said, "and I don't think that's appropriate."
“While I respect the concern that prosecutors could pursue politically motivated indictments, I disagreed with this rule change and voted no,” Wilson said. “The measure eventually passed over substantial opposition.”
“As a general matter, we should not craft the rules of the House because of individual situations,” she said.
“It sends all the wrong signals for us to change the current rules,” said Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee. He said he requested a recorded, secret ballot, but the suggestion was voted down.
“Although I was meeting with Taiwanese dignitaries and was unable to attend the meeting where this change was passed, I would have opposed the rule change. I believe that politicians need to hold themselves to a higher standard, and any attempt to weaken rules designed to prevent the impugning of the House of Representatives is a step in the wrong direction. As lawmakers and national leaders, we should hold ourselves to the highest standard of integrity and I believe that both parties should work hard to ensure that members of their caucus are held to the strictest ethical standard."
“I am still troubled by the process that was used to change the ethics rules at the beginning of this Congress and with some of the new rules. As I have said previously, the ethics process in the House must be bipartisan and shouldn’t be enforced by party-line votes, and I plan to ask the House to revisit the recent changes.”
"Changing this rule sends the wrong signal to the American people. Members of Congress are not above the law. When the Republican Party adopted this rule in the wake of scandals in 1993 involving high-ranking Democrats, we did so because we wanted to clean up Washington," Castle's release said. "The original rule was written for good reason, and it should stand."
“We took a strong stand in 1994 to make clear the Republican conference would live by a higher standard than our Democratic colleagues. This was instrumental in winning a Republican Congress for the first time in 40 years and the driving force behind passing the Congressional Accountability Act in the historic 104th Congress. Today, I spoke out against the amendment and voted against it because I believe it is a step in the wrong direction.”
“I think that it sets a bad example," Emerson said Friday from Capitol Hill. "I just don't think that it passes the smell test."
"The issue of requiring a member to step aside from a leadership position, in the wake of an indictment, is common sense."
"We had some changes to the House Rules which were sponsored by allies of Tom DeLay and I voted against them and I think most members of the moderate (Republican) group did as well. I think we should maintain the highest ethical standards and we should not change the rules. I think if a congressman is indicted they should step down from any leadership of Congress."
Others indicating their opposition: Rob Simmons (R-CT), Nancy Johnson (R-CT), Tom Davis (R-VA), and Ray LaHood (R-IL).
So by my count, and it's far from comprehensive, I have 14 Republicans unhappy with at least some of the ethics rules changes rammed through to protect DeLay. And truthfully, what other reason might there have been for the changes? Prior to taking up DeLay's case, an ethics truce between the parties kept the docket more or less clear for seven years. Seven years of relative peace under the old rules. Then, suddenly, the need for radical restructuring. Hmm.
Mollohan's bill rolling back the rest of these changes currently has 114 co-sponsors: 113 Democrats, and Chris Shays. Republicans, by the way, wouldn't even blush at calling that "bipartisanship," if the bill were on Social Security privatization and the numbers were reversed.
The rest of the Democratic Caucus will no doubt join the bill in the coming days. Which makes the threat of a discharge petition a real threat. Thanks to a 1993 GOP reform measure, the discharge petition process is now a public one. The names of Members who sign, and by extension, those who don't are now available for constituents to review. And constituents of those Republican Members who took the time to go on the record with their opposition to special rules protecting DeLay aren't going to want to have to tell their hometown newspapers why they're eating their words in the face of a challenge to actually give them some teeth.
202 Democrats, plus one Independent (Bernie Sanders of Vermont), plus 14 Republicans = 217, one shy of the 218 needed to discharge the bill, and to pass it. Who's gonna step up? Are any of the six Republicans [who] expressed concern over the weekend not already among our 14?