Last night, the House passed an ethics reform bill, which will create an outside panel to review ethics complaints against lawmakers. It’s a noted improvement over the current setup — which isn’t saying much since the House ethics committee has been a punchline for many years.
The outside panel, which will have six members (3 GOPers, 3 Dems), won’t have subpoena power. And it will simply forward recommendations to the actual House ethics committee for further action after investigating. That’s why some critics like CREW’s Melanie Sloan call it a “paper tiger.” Other good government types have given their support on the theory that something is better than nothing.
As The Hill reports, the Dem leadership pushed hard for the reform bill despite Republicans and a number of senior Democrats digging in their heels and doing what they could to prevent the vote. As The Washington Post reports, “Even with two House members under indictment, two others sent to prison, and several others under federal investigation, nearly half the House did not want to submit the body to the scrutiny of a panel not under its control.” Some of the choicer quotes from last night’s debate:
Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS): “If you have a single ounce of self-preservation, you’ll vote no.”
Mighty reform foe Rep. John Murtha (D-PA): âWe have a New York governor in the news right who shows that you canât legislate ethics. It always comes down to the individual.â
And most quotable of all:
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, registered his displeasure with the proposal by using a parliamentary tactic to delay the vote. Just after 8 p.m., Abercrombie forced a vote on a motion to adjourn, which only served to delay the vote on the ethics resolution until an hour later. The vote failed 177 to 196, with 14 Democrats voting in favor of it.
Afterward, Abercrombie railed against the proposal to resounding applause on both sides of the aisle.
âWith this proposal we are indicting ourselves, yielding and retreating to those who would tear this House down and denigrate us as crooks and knaves and hustlersâ¦we cringe before our critics,â he said. âIf we have no respect for ourselvesâhow to we expect it from anybody else?â