After digging themselves into another lose-lose situation, House Republicans have finally agreed to return ethics violation investigations to the Congress. A rule designed to protect Tom DeLay will be reversed so that his alleged indiscretions will finally be investigated. He may well be cleared of all allegations, but at least now, there will now be a little dignity returning. A rule that Republicans have still not changed back was the one that required a GOP leader to step aside if they are indicted for a crime.
GOP to Reverse Ethics Rule Blocking New DeLay Probe
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 27, 2005; Page A01
House Republican leaders, acknowledging that ethics disputes are taking a heavy toll on the party's image, decided yesterday to rescind a controversial rule change that led to the three-month shutdown of the ethics committee, according to officials who participated in the talks.
Republicans touched off a political uproar in January by changing a rule that had required the ethics committee to continue considering a complaint against a House member if there was a deadlock between the committee's five Republicans and five Democrats. The January change reversed this, calling for automatic dismissal of an ethics complaint when a deadlock occurs.
Democrats rebelled against that and other changes -- saying Republicans were trying to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) from further ethics investigations -- and blocked the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is officially known, from organizing for the new Congress.
Republicans on the committee say they will launch an investigation of DeLay's handling of overseas trips and gifts as soon as the impasse over the rules is broken. The Washington Post reported last weekend that Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff charged DeLay's airfare to London and Scotland to his American Express card in 2000.
House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists. DeLay said that he will meet with the committee chairman and the ranking Democrat, and that his staff is assembling documents to turn over to the committee. The panel admonished DeLay three times last year for what it deemed inappropriate official behavior.
The officials participating in talks about restarting the committee said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has agreed to ask the House to vote later this week on a rollback of the rule change. A Republican adviser said the decision "is the speaker's way of trying to put this behind us and get us back to regular order."
"There will be a [political] cost to this, but if he had not done this, the cost would continue to increase," said the adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Hastert had not announced his decision.
This morning, at a weekly meeting for all House Republicans, Hastert will present options for the rollback package, officials said. The officials, who demanded anonymity because the negotiations were confidential, said the proposal will include a reversal of the January rule that would automatically dismiss an ethics complaint after 45 days if the committee is deadlocked.