1.01.2005 | Sea change at the party of morals

While the world's attention is rightly focused on the Asian tsunami disaster and the world celebrates a muted new year, House Republicans want to push through a sea change of their own when it comes to Congressional ethics. According to this Washington Post report, Republicans want to:

  • Make it harder for lawmakers to discipline a colleague for bringing discredit on the House even if their behavior was not covered by a specific regulation;

  • Make it easier for relatives of lawmakers to accept foreign and domestic trips from groups interested in legislation before the House; and

  • Allow either party to stop the House ethics committee from investigating a complaint against a member.



This is the continuing saga of Republican majority control, which has been abused in recent weeks to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whose campaign staffers have been indicted by a Texas grand jury investigating violations of campaign finance laws. In November after the election, Republicans voted to change their own rules to allow DeLay to keep his position in the party if he is ever indicted himself.

Three times the House ethics panel had publicly admonished Mr. DeLay for ethics violations, including an outright bribe on the House floor, but the only person facing any heat is the chairman of that panel, who may be replaced by Republican leadership.

This approach to rewarding failure is certainly nothing new to the Republican Party. But of one thing we can be sure: When it comes to protecting their own, the party of morals is certainly not the party of good government. Whether it comes to House ethics violations, Senate filibusters, or amending for Arnold, changing the rules for the convenience of the moment can only lead to trouble down the road.

Update: Republicans have backed off some of the more controversial changes, but that didn't stop them from continuing to stifle bipartisan ethics reform for political gain. And the House ethics chair is still likely to be replaced.

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