House Delays Vote on New Ethics Panel

The New York Times reported  yesterday that the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives delayed a vote that would have created a new independent ethics panel (the Office of Congressional Ethics) to handle ethics investigations of House members.  The vote had been scheduled for today.  Given the many ethics problems House members have been accused of recently, this is quite unfortunate and shows how hard it is to get politicians to follow through on their promises of reform.  The failure of the Democrats in Congress to do so many of the things they promised during the 2006 election is why Congress has such low job approval ratings.  Hopefully, the Democratic leadership will really bring this to a vote in the near future as majority leader Steny Hoyer told the Times. 

I found a comments from Representative Louise Slaughter of New York (a Democrat) who is chairwoman of the Rules Committee particularly obnoxious.  She asked, “What makes people think that six people chosen at random would have more ethics, more intelligence, more judgement than we have?”  If she really meant what she said, then she is completely clueless.  It’s more likely that she did not mean it and thinks the American public is stupid enough to be tricked by nonsense like this.  The whole point of creating an independent ethics panel rather than letting House members police themselves is that an independent panel would be just that —  independent! That means they would be a lot less likely to overlook offenses of their colleagues or brush them under the rug in quid per quo  deals.  Additionally, the six members of the ethics panel would not be chosen at random; they would be appointed by the Speaker of the House and the minority leader and could not be lobbyists or current members of Congress.  Presumably, the appointees would be respectable people with lengthy public service records and reputations of integrity.  Even presuming that the members of the House who serve on the current House ethics committee are all intelligent and honest, the record shows that they have been unable to act effectively.

While the new ethics panel would not actually have the power to do anything other than investigate members of the House and report their findings to the current ethics committee, it seems more likely that an independent panel would begin investigations and report their findings to the House and the press.  This would then force the ethics committee to take further action against members accused of violations by the independent ethics panel.  Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership should keep their promises and create the new ethics panel or force those in the House opposed to it to vote against it and then fight to keep their seats in November.

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One Response to “House Delays Vote on New Ethics Panel”

  1. rberlind Says:

    Well, Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership did bring the proposal for a new ethics panel to a vote yesterday (3/11) and it passed 229-182 with most Republicans voting against it. The composition of the new panel is as described above. 3 members would be appointed by the Speaker and 3 by the Minority Leader. At least one member of the panel from each party must agree before an investigation of a House member.

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