Gee, we couldn’t see this coming:
House Republican leaders are urging members to alter one of the chamber’s fundamental ethics rules, which would make it harder for lawmakers to discipline a colleague.
The proposed change would essentially negate a general rule of conduct that the ethics committee has often cited in admonishing lawmakers — including Majority Leader Tom DeLay — for bringing discredit on the House even if their behavior was not covered by a specific regulation. Backers of the rule, adopted three decades ago, say it is important because the House’s conduct code cannot anticipate every instance of questionable behavior that might reflect poorly on the chamber.
Republicans, returning to the Capitol on Tuesday after increasing their House majority by three seats in the Nov. 2 election, also want to relax a restriction on relatives of lawmakers accepting foreign and domestic trips from groups interested in legislation before the House.
A third proposed rule change would allow either party to stop the House ethics committee from investigating a complaint against a member.
… Earlier this year, House Republicans rewrote a party rule so that DeLay can keep his leadership job even if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury. The grand jury has indicted three of his political associates in an investigation of campaign finances related to a House redistricting plan that DeLay helped push through in Texas.
Having created what seems to be a permanent majority, the Republicans have been changing the rules of Congress for years now to cement their position. Now they are trying to close the one loophole that might cause them trouble: ethics. It’s the one area that the Republicans as astonishingly weak in. These are people who accept huge donations from big business then do their bidding — ethics simply doesn’t come into the equation.
Dana Milbank contributes an analysis of this turn of events and takes a look at faltering government ethics, but from Republicans and Democrats.