The House ethics committee is stuck in neutral.
A dispute between the parties has shut down the House ethics committee for the second time this year, and lawmakers said that it could be months — and perhaps next year — before the panel will decide whether to examine the activities of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) or others accused of violating restrictions on lobbying and travel.
The ethics committee, the House’s mechanism for enforcing rules for members, has operated for exactly one day since the 109th Congress convened in early January. In May, after Republicans broke an impasse with Democrats by backing off an effort to change the rules for investigations, the committee voted to organize for the year.
But it has not met since then. No session is scheduled, and both parties say any investigation is months off. The latest logjam relates to a decision by Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) to try to name his 10-year chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, as a co-director of the committee staff. But the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.), said the rules give Democrats a say in the appointment, and they oppose Cassidy. Democrats and Republicans each hold five of the committee’s 10 seats, making it the only House panel on which Democrats can block majority-party actions.
In a sign that both parties are leery of the outcome of an ethics war, not a single complaint has been filed with the ethics committee by either side despite a torrent of revelations about questionable conduct by lawmakers.
Take as long as you need, guys. No need to rush to judgement — we could wait until, oh, say, the middle of the midterm election campaign…