Newsday Weighs in on House Ethics Committee Imbroglio

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Today Newsday editorializes on the weakness of the House Ethics Committee:

"In a deplorable attempt to keep House ethics watchdogs off the case of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), their ethically-challenged majority leader, Republicans have unceremoniously dumped committee members judged insufficiently loyal and changed the rules of engagement. In the process, any honest attempt at ethics enforcement has been abandoned. ...

...[I]n January, they changed committee rules, making ethics enforcement completely partisan and complaints all but impossible to sustain. The key change empowers any one party, acting alone, to block an official investigation. The panel, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, is composed of five Republicans and five Democrats. Before January, if a 5-to-5 standoff on a valid complaint lasted for 45 days, a formal subcommittee investigation was automatically initiated. Now a 5-to-5 stalemate results in a complaint being automatically dismissed.

The Orwellian result? The ethics committee has become the place where valid ethics complaints go to die."

Newsday doesn't stop there. Democrats on the committee, says the paper, are protesting by preventing the committee from organizing officially for the session until the House acts on a resolution fixing the rules. Republicans ought to join them, because:

"If it turns out that Tom "The Hammer" DeLay deserves it, then the committee should be free to hammer him."