Thursday, April 21, 2005

Surprise, surprise

Well, it looks like Delay won't be able to clear his name. Why? Because the Democrats won't convene the ethics panel.

Democrats yesterday rejected an offer by House Republicans to begin an investigation into ethics accusations against Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

The offer was made by Republicans on the House ethics committee who wanted, in exchange, an agreement from Democrats to convene the ethics panel today and accept at least a revised version of the new rules for the committee.

What are the changes that Republicans made?

The House, on a vote of 220 to 195, enacted a change that would effectively dismiss a complaint in the event of a deadlock in the ethics committee, which is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Its approval came after a retreat by Republicans on Monday on other proposed ethics revisions

"This change restores the presumption of innocence in our process," said Representative David Dreier of California, chairman of the Rules Committee.

Under the system instituted in 1997, if no action is taken on a complaint within 45 days, a preliminary investigation is started. The new approach would require an affirmative vote by the panel to begin an investigation, meaning at least one committee member belonging to the same party as the lawmaker at the center of the complaint would have to join in backing an inquiry or the complaint would die. (emphasis added)

The Republicans are more than willing to open this preliminary investigation.

"If these changes had been in place in the last Congress, no ethics complaints would have seen the light of day," said Representative Louise M. Slaughter of New York, senior Democrat on the Rules Committee.

Well, that's obviously not true. At least not for the Republicans who want to clear Delay's name and know that that will only happen if the ethics panel convenes. An argument could be made that the Democrats are the ones who are protecting their own, Rep. Jim McDermott.

Mr. DeLay also accused Democrats of protecting Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, who awaits an investigation by the House ethics panel after losing a federal lawsuit that accused him of passing along an illegally taped 1997 telephone conversation. In an October ruling on that suit, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan declared that Mr. McDermott's "willful and knowing misconduct rises to the level of malice in this case." "One of [Democrats'] best friends, Jim McDermott, is being investigated, and they don't want him to be kicked out of Congress," Mr. DeLay said last week. "I mean, this guy has been found guilty -- guilty by a court of law -- and they don't want an ethics committee."

This should really come as no surprise. If Delay is found not guilty of any misconduct, then the Dems would have to find another whipping boy. Think of all the time and effort it will take to rewrite all those speeches and talking points with the name of a new Democrat "demon du jour."