Thursday, March 10, 2005

Republicans Attempt To Limit DeLay Investigations

House Ethics Panel in Gridlock
Democrats Refuse to Participate Under New GOP Rules

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page A02

The House, facing new controversy about the travel of Majority Leader Tom DeLay, was left last night with no mechanism for investigating improper behavior by its members when Democrats shut down the ethics committee by refusing to accept Republican rules changes that restrict the panel's power.

Democrats said they do not plan to allow the ethics committee to organize until Republicans repeal a series of rule changes they pushed through in January, making it more difficult to initiate an investigation unless at least one Republican member supports the probe.

The committee met in secret for 2 1/2 hours. It was the first meeting since House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) replaced the chairman and two other members with lawmakers more loyal to the leadership. "These rules undermine the ability of the committee to do its job," Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.), the panel's top Democrat, said in an interview after a 5 to 5 vote that stalemated action. "An ethics committee has to do a good job if it's going to do any job at all."

The standoff followed a Washington Post report that DeLay accepted a trip to South Korea in 2001 from a group that had registered as a foreign agent. House rules prohibit members from taking gifts from such groups. The ethics committee has admonished DeLay three times in the past year for official misconduct, and some ethics experts believe that the latest revelation could trigger another investigation.



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