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House Ethics Overhaul

December 13, 2006 - by Donny Shaw

As this editorial in the Houston Chronicle points out, the bipartisan House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct is proving itself time and time again as unable to actually discipline Representatives that violate the codes of conduct. Their latest failure was finding no one in violation of the rules in regards to the Foley page scandal.

Their recent report concluded that “The requirement that Members and staff act at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House does not mean that every error in judgment or failure to exercise appropriate oversight and sufficient diligence establishes a violation” of House rules. This really gives no incentive for anyone to take effective action in dealing with situations like the Foley scandal.

Today Nancy Pelosi consulted with minority leader John Boehner about creating an independent, bipartisan ethics panel to help keep Representatives in check. The creation of an outside entity such as this has had bipartisan support in the past, but has consistently failed to actually be put into action.

Some critics of the independent panel have suggested that it is unconstitutional.

The creation of the panel is likely to be brought up in a House rules package that will come up early in the new Congress’ agenda. Other items in the package will likely deal with new regulations for earmarks, and a prohibition on gifts from lobbyists. These issues have slightly less across-the-board support, and it will be a matter of the severity of the proposed regulations that ultimately determine if any of this goes through.

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