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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Democrats in Congress "Openly Rebel" Against House Leadership on Ethics

These days outside observers, in fact, almost anyone that watches Congress at work, via C-Span, can tell you that Congress spends more time fighting over bills than they do passing them.

With that said however, it is usually Republicans objecting to bills proposed by Democrats or Democrats objecting to bills that are proposed by Republicans.

When Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike "erupt in applause" when a bill is pulled or postponed, it can be assumed it must have been a very bad bill to begin with.

This was the case yesterday, Wednesday, February 27, 2008, with an ethics measure that the "leadership" backed.

Members of the Rules Committee, who rarely break with their leaders, expressed deep dismay during a hearing Wednesday over a proposal to create an outside ethics office to judge complaints about members, and their opposition forced leaders to cancel an expected floor vote on the bill Thursday.

It went so far that Representative Dennis Cardoza, A Democrat from California, used the word “suck” to describe his feelings for the Democratic bill, as well as a GOP alternative.

Minority Leader John Boehner, Republican from ohio had gone so far as to beg Nancy Pelosi to not bring this particular bill to the floor and despite vocal Democratic opposition, Steny Hoyer who is the Democratic Majority Leader, predicted the House would back the creation of the independent ethics entity when it was brought up on Thursday.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) also made a rare appearance to speak out against the Democratic proposal, which had been spearheaded by an ethics task force headed by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.). Boehner called on members to endorse the GOP substitute.

The Hill reports that the Democratic proposal would create a six-person board to oversee the new Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), with joint appointments if the Speaker and minority leader can agree on the choices.

Then the office would start investigations and make recommendations to the full ethics committee, and no members or lobbyists could serve on the board.

The republicans and Democrats alike argued against that proposal, saying that it wold enable partisan witchhunts.

The GOP made that argument clearly by creating a list of 10 Democratic targets of ethics allegations, showing exactly what leadership could expect if the proposal went forward.

The Republican alternative measure "would focus on making changes to the existing ethics committee by adding four former lawmakers to the panel and giving the House inspector general the responsibility of accepting allegations against members and forwarding them on to the full ethics committee. The chair of the committee would alternate between parties each Congress."

The proposal would provide monthly public reports on the status of the panel’s investigations, and if panel action becomes blocked by a partisan stalemate, after 90 days, the panel would pass along its findings as of that date to the Department of Justice for further action.

Democratic lawmakers expressed concern for that proposal, citing, "the GOP proposal would raise constitutional questions because it would allow people who are not current members of Congress to weigh in on determining a sitting lawmaker’s fate."

Representative David Dreier, a Republican from California stated that "he hadn’t seen a committee meeting so far this Congress in which both sides were dissenting against a Democratic leadership backed resolution with such a “thoughtful discussion."

It is good to see members of the United States Congress unite and agree for a change.... the problem for the leadership though, is they all untied against them.

Page one of The Hill article can be found here.