New Session of Congress Begins with Approval of Rule That Will Make It Harder to Launch Already Rare Ethics Investigations of Members
True, Republican House leaders backed away from plans to implement new rules aimed at allowing Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) to keep his job if indicted in Texas, and from weakening one of the most basic tenets in the House Code of Conduct. But the House on Tuesday night still made a harmful change to the ethics process.
As Members convened for the opening of the 109th Congress, the House approved along party lines a rules package that contained a provision that will make it harder for the Ethics Committee to launch an investigation against Members.
Under the old rule, if the Ethics Committee, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, deadlocked along party lines or otherwise, an investigation - rare to begin with -- would automatically be triggered within 45 days. Under the new rule, the complaint is dropped in the event of a deadlock. The Republicans call the reform the "presumption of innocence rule." Common Cause calls it the "party protection act," since no one will be investigated as long as Members vote along party lines.