|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
November 19, 2004
Having picked up a handful of seats in this month's election, House Republicans seem to think they have a mandate to eradicate Congressional ethics standards.
On Tuesday, House Republicans unanimously elected Tom DeLay to serve another term as House majority leader, despite his unsavory record when it comes to abiding by accepted Congressional standards of conduct. He received two separate bipartisan rebukes from the normally timid ethics committee this fall.
Just in case Mr. DeLay gets into more trouble, G.O.P. lawmakers have followed up by repealing their wise party rule that barred indicted members from holding leadership positions. Only a handful of Republicans had the moral compass to object.
The Republican conference's worry about Mr. DeLay's relationship with the forces of justice stems from the same events that nailed down his current popularity. He muscled an egregiously partisan redistricting plan into Texas, and that helped Republican candidates pick up five Congressional seats there.
It is far from certain that Mr. DeLay will be charged with a crime in connection with the redistricting. During that effort, he strong-armed federal authorities into joining a search for Democratic state legislators who had left Texas to keep the plan from coming to a vote. But Mr. DeLay is plainly worried. Three of his aides were recently indicted on charges that they illegally laundered campaign money to help Texas Republicans, and prosecutors are said to be scrutinizing his own actions.
The Republicans also seem bent on reining in the ethics committee for having had the temerity to rebuke Mr. DeLay for some of his more outrageous conduct. The party's Rules Committee chairman, David Dreier, recently sent a letter to House members signaling that he plans to make it even harder than it already is for members to file an ethics complaint, and for outside groups to be heard in the process. Rumors also abound that come January, when the next Congress is seated, all five Republican members of the ethics committee, including its current chairman, Representative Joel Hefley, may be replaced.
The Republicans originally adopted the rule requiring indicted G.O.P. leaders to step down from their posts during the 1990's. At the time, the party was trying to demonstrate that it had firmer ethical standards than the Democrats, who then held the majority in the House.
Now it will be left up to party insiders on the Republican Steering Committee to recommend on a case-by-case basis whether a party leader should step aside after a state or federal felony indictment. The old era is clearly over, as are any doubts that the Republican House leadership has lost interest in the high moral ground now that it has further consolidated its power.
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