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House to weaken ethics rules

Discussion in 'News' started by KING BLING, Dec 31, 2004.


    KING BLING Guest


    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican leaders are considering a change in House ethics rules that could make it harder to discipline lawmakers.

    The proposal being circulated among House Republicans would end a general rule against any behavior that might bring "discredit" on the chamber, according to House Republican and Democratic leadership aides.

    House members would be held to a narrower standard of behavior in keeping with the law, the House's rules and its ethics guidelines.

    Other proposed changes to the ethics committee's rules being circulated in a "Dear Colleague" letter from House Rules Chairman David Dreier, R-California, would let House members respond to any admonishment before a letter goes out from the committee, and would end an investigation if there is a tie vote.

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, plans to bring the proposal before a meeting of all House Republicans next week "and see what they think," said Hastert spokesman John Feehery.

    The broader ethics rule in question was used this year to admonish Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, though the committee said he did not break House rules.

    Democrats and government watchdog groups denounced the proposed change.

    "It would lower the standard of official conduct, and if that's the case, it would be the first time that it has been done since 1968, and it would be done on a completely partisan basis," said Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, on Friday.

    Pelosi, D-California, also plans to huddle with Democrats next week to discuss a strategy for defeating the proposal.

    "Members of the House should be kept to the highest ethical standard, not the lowest," Crider said. "Now, the code is higher than the law. This would say you've only violated the code of ethics if you've violated the law."

    The committee has a long history, dating to the first recorded disciplinary action in 1798, when a Vermont lawmaker spat on a Connecticut colleague during a vote. Despite an apology letter, the committee nearly expelled the Vermonter, but fell two votes shy.

    In the DeLay case, the committee said he had created the appearance of linking political donations to a legislative favor and improperly gained intervention of the Federal Aviation Administration in a Texas political dispute. It also said DeLay had improperly offered support for the House candidacy of Michigan Republican Rep. Nick Smith's son in return for the lawmaker's vote for a Medicare prescription drug benefit. Smith voted against it.

    After helping craft that admonishment, the committee's chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colorado, may be replaced with another chairman by Hastert. (House ethics panel chief could be replaced)

    Feehery said that is being considered because Hastert believes rules limit Hefley's tenure on the commission, not because of his leadership on the DeLay case.

    Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a watchdog group, said the House Republican leaders' proposal "would fundamentally undermine and damage the House ethics rules, and would constitute the biggest backtracking we have ever seen on ethics standards in the House."

    "If House Republican leaders are allowed to prevail, they will have gutted the single most important ethics standard in the House and turned House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's multiple ethics transgressions into acceptable conduct for all House members," Wertheimer said.

    KING BLING Guest


    Hastert May Replace Ethics Panel Chairman

    By Laurie Kellman / Associated Press

    WASHINGTON - Rep. Joel Hefley's days as chairman of the House ethics committee may be numbered.

    After co-authoring an admonishment of Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Republican from Colorado is on House Speaker Dennis Hastert's list of chairmen likely to be replaced when Congress begins its new session on Tuesday.

    "If he makes that decision, it will be because of the rules, not for any other reason," Hastert spokesman John Feehery said Thursday. "The speaker thinks that Chairman Hefley has done a terrific job."

    It's no secret that Hefley's independence has chafed the leaders of his party. But Hastert believes House rules say time is up on Hefley's tenure on the committee, Feehery said. That interpretation of the rules is likely to be disputed, but in any case the speaker can install a new chairman at his discretion.

    Telephone calls to Hefley's office were not answered Thursday. Democrats scoffed at the notion that his actions would be unrelated to a move to replace him as chairman.

    "It is our responsibility to uphold a high ethical standard," said DeLay's Democratic counterpart, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. "Removing a chair of the Ethics Committee for upholding that standard would be a stain on the House of Representatives."

    The shadow of grand jury action hovers over DeLay as a Texas state panel probe continues under the direction of prosecutor Ronnie Earle, a Democrat.

    In September, grand jurors indicted three DeLay associates and eight corporations in an investigation of corporate contributions to a political action committee associated with DeLay.

    On Thursday in Texas, a judge accepted a deal in which prosecutors dropped charges against one of the eight corporations, Sears, Roebuck and Co., in exchange for its cooperation in the investigation.

    Earlier, prosecutors made a similar deal to drop charges against another of the eight companies, Diversified Collections Services Inc.

    Back in Washington, Hefley in October co-authored two committee admonishments of DeLay.

    In one, the panel said DeLay had created the appearance of linking political donations to a legislative favor and had improperly gotten the Federal Aviation Administration to intervene in a Texas political dispute.

    In the other, the ethics committee chastised DeLay for offering to support the House candidacy of Michigan Republican Rep. Nick Smith (news, bio, voting record)'s son in return for the lawmaker's vote for a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

    The panel said DeLay did not break House rules.

    Emboldened by gains in the November election, House Republicans moved quickly to thank DeLay by adopting a new rule saying, in effect, a state grand jury indictment on a felony charge should not automatically strip the majority leader of his title.
  3. villain

    villain Veteran Member

    Joined: Jul 12, 2002 Messages: 5,190 Likes Received: 2
    fucking legal criminals i tell ya.
  4. Nekro

    Nekro Elite Member

    Joined: Feb 19, 2003 Messages: 2,568 Likes Received: 1
    They backed down on this one, they're not doing it.