Dem Ethics Unity
Sorry I haven't been around, been focused on another web project that has sucked up all my blog time. Anyway....
As has been pointed out ad nauseum, Delay is going down. What hasn't been discussed much in all of our jubilant glee is that Dems are united and fighting hard to prevent rules changes and have basically shut down the House Ethics Committee:
Republican leaders had thought they had built a fortress against future trouble by changing House rules in January and by changing the House ethics committee's Republican membership in February to include members closer to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and DeLay. In one previously unreported example of the tight connections, Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tex.), one of the committee's new members, was co-host of a 2002 fundraising breakfast to benefit the DeLay-founded political action committee that is now the subject of a grand jury investigation in Texas. The grand jury is looking into whether the PAC improperly used corporate funds to influence the outcome of state legislative races.Wowsa -- nice job!
DeLay's legal defense fund received contributions from two of the new ethics committee members, Smith and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). The committee admonished DeLay three times last year. Republican leaders later sought the rule changes that made it more difficult to bring new ethics charges against Republicans.
Democratic leaders have introduced a resolution to repeal the rules and said they plan to try to force Republicans to publicly defend the changes at a time when the news media are reporting about DeLay's relationship with lobbyists now under criminal and congressional investigation.
The rule changes require at least one member of each party to support an investigation before it is begun. Under the old rules, if the chairman and top Democrat did not agree on what to do with a complaint within 45 days after it was determined to be valid, an investigative subcommittee was automatically created. Now, a complaint is automatically dismissed if the committee does not act within 45 days.
Democrats opened their protest Thursday, at the ethics committee's first meeting under its new leadership, by preventing the panel from organizing. The committee must adopt rules to function, and those were voted down by a 5 to 5 party-line vote, leaving the House with no mechanism for investigating or punishing members.
Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.), the committee's top Democrat, said in a telephone interview yesterday that he will not release his freeze on committee action unless the House undoes the rule changes, and he said he has begun recruiting Republicans to back him. He said he may use a tactic known as a discharge petition, which could force a bill to the floor if enough Republicans back him.
"This will have to be resolved on the House floor," Mollohan said. "These rules undermine the ability of the committee to do its job. Republicans are not going to want to be part of impeding the work of the committee."
The ethics committee, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, is the only panel split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, giving the minority party leverage it does not have anywhere else in the House.