What the House did yesterday and today

I have gotten a lot of email about how far Republicans in the House went in backtracking, so I wanted to clarify what they did and what they didn't do.

Most of the attention last night and today centered on Tom DeLay's stunning defeat when he was forced to reverse the DeLay Rule. We should be proud of the role we played in making that happen.

In addition, yesterday the GOP leadership withdrew several major components of their proposed ethics rules. The initial proposal would have drastically loosened the ethics guidelines for members of Congress and made it almost impossible to launch any ethics investigations. However, the GOP maintained a few significant pieces of the proposal -- including one that requires a majority vote of an evenly split committee (five Democrats, five Republicans) to begin an investigation. This change was adopted today on a straight party vote, 220-195.

Public Campaign Action Fund, as part of the Congressional Ethics Coalition, opposed this provision because it will, in effect, halt virtually all investigations. We, along with the seven other members of the coalition, issued a statement in opposition.

So, yes, the Republicans did in fact weaken ethics rules today. And tomorrow, or next week, they will likely strip Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) of his chairmanship, replacing him with DeLay loyalist Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). None of this is good. But we did succeed in making this entire debate about their ethics and willingness to bend the rules for one person, and we were able to defeat DeLay on the DeLay Rule, a major embarassment. For that, we should declare victory even as we cast this leadership as one that will continue to overreach on all matters of big money, corruption, and ethics.