ere is some badly needed comic relief from Congress: The House ethics committee, now that it has been rendered impotent by the Republican leadership, is plumping for a 50 percent increase in financing to see to such vital needs as writing a new ethics manual to educate lawmakers. ("J is for Junket, so naughty and nice.")
The money would also pay for the hiring of an unusual new Capitol worker - specialists authorized to explain House rules to innocent representatives. Political grief counselors, let's call them. One of their first assignments should be succoring the majority leader, Tom DeLay, who issued a plaint before a gathering of power conservatives last week that lumped his own festering ethical troubles (attacks "against me") with all criticism of conservative causes, including the sorry attempt to exploit the troubles of Terri Schiavo ("a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in").
Mr. DeLay's solipsistic wailing should be a further caution to the Republican majority who went along with the replacement of the ethics panel chairman and the neutering of its rules after the committee issued three cautions to Mr. DeLay. He was told to temper his autocratic behavior in dealing with members, lobbyists and federal agencies.
The panel purge, a favor by Speaker Dennis Hastert, was aimed at protecting Mr. DeLay from more investigation of complaints about such lapses as his reported junketeering on lobbyists' money. Beyond the House, Texas prosecutors have filed money-laundering charges against DeLay political operatives. Mr. DeLay denounces all these matters as vicious assaults. For a while, he even had House rules crimped last year to let him remain in power if he were indicted. That scandalous touch of homage was reversed after Republicans felt constituent heat that they were following the leader too far.
It is time for more such second thoughts. Any new money for the ethics panel will be wasted unless Republican members, wary of being yoked to Mr. DeLay, demand that the rules be stiffened to gain some ethical credibility in the House.