Despite attempts by some Republicans to soften reform efforts, Rep. Bob Ney
- that's Rep. #1 to you and me - is pushing for a hard line.
The House Republicans have been steadily dialing back expectations for lobbying reform since January, but there seemed like there was one measure they could all agree on: cutting off pensions to former House members convicted of a crime.
Apparently such a measure seemed needlessly draconian to Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI). But Rep. Bob Ney (OH), seeing an irresistible opportunity to seize the mantle of ethics reform, intervened.
From Roll Call
What in the world was House Administration Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) thinking? During his panel's markup of lobby reform legislation last week, Ehlers was all ginned up to offer an amendment that would have weakened the bill so that pension benefits would be denied to Members convicted of public corruption charges only during their period of imprisonment. Once out of jail - voila! - their retirement pay would resume.
Apparently Ehlers had already passed out copies of his tough but fair amendment when other House committee members stopped his hand, fearing a PR debacle. And there was one in particular who came riding to the rescue...
Ironically, it was Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) - the man known as "Representative #1" in court documents and as "Dead Man Walking" to aficionados of the Jack Abramoff scandal - who argued most passionately against Ehlers' amendment.
Ney - who under scrutiny in the Abramoff scandal was forced out as the panelâs chairman and replaced by Ehlers - had prepared a statement to read at the markup. In it, he acknowledged the obvious: "My critics would likely say that there would be no Member more than myself who would want to seek protection from such a stiff financial penalty."
Why would the Justice Department be harrassing such an upstanding member of Congress?