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US House of Representatives delays bill to create independent ethics review of member misdeeds

US House of Representatives delays bill to create independent ethics review of member misdeeds

The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, still seeking consensus on how to ensure the chamber's integrity and reputation, put off a vote Wednesday on a proposal to create an independent ethics office that would review complaints of member wrongdoing.
"It's a difficult effort," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in announcing that the vote planned for Thursday would be delayed so leaders could consider Republican and other approaches to fixing the House's flawed ethics review system.
The Democratic plan would create a six-member Office of Congressional Ethics to conduct preliminary investigations and refer cases of misconduct to the House ethics committee, which in recent years has been widely criticized for partisanship and lack of action.
House Democratic and GOP leaders would choose the six members, who could not be House lawmakers or lobbyists.
The proposal was put forth by Democrats on a task force appointed a year ago by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and the Republicans' leader, John Boehner. Republicans on the task force refused to sign off on the plan, and Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, the party's point man on the task force, introduced a new plan Wednesday.
Republicans said the Democratic plan failed to reform the ethics committee itself and objected to a provision allowing investigations to be initiated by just two members of the board. "I think Republicans and Democrats alike are going to have second thoughts about allowing two members of the Office of Congressional Ethics ... to trigger an unlimited number of investigations. This is an open invitation to an ethics war," Smith said.
Several Democrats on the House Rules Committee also voiced reservations at a hearing on the resolution Wednesday. Democrats have questioned the need for the outside board and complained it would be unable to enforce its wishes because it would not have subpoena powers.
The Republican plan would require that any complaint that the ethics committee should fail to deal with in 90 days be turned over to the FBI and the Justice Department. It also would require the committee, known for its lack of transparency, to release a monthly public report of its investigative activities. It would allow the House inspector general to receive information from the public about alleged misconduct and transmit that information to the ethics committee. Under current House rules only members can initiate official complaints.
"Our goal is real reform of the ethics process, and a system that makes it harder, not easier, for problems to be swept under the rug by Congress," Boehner said in explaining the proposal to the Rules Committee.
Reps. Baron Hill, a Democrat, and Republican Zach Wamp also urged House leaders to consider their bipartisan proposal to create a House Ethics Commission, a 12-member independent body comprising both current and former members that would have sole power to investigate complaints, subpoena people and issue recommendations to the full House regarding findings and suggested penalties for infractions.
The Rules Committee's Democratic chairwoman, Louise Slaughter, said it was "only reasonable" to give the two sides time to review the Republican plan. "Make no mistake, Democrats in the House are committed to restoring honesty, integrity and accountability in Congress, and this is the next step in that commitment," she said.
Democrats gained the majority in the House a year ago partly because of scandals involving several Republicans and promised to make ethics reform a major element of their agenda.
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On the Net:
http://www.house.gov/ethics


Updated : 2021-03-02 07:04 GMT+08:00