As Nancy reported yesterday and everyone has undoubtedly seen, Ethics Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and three of the Republicans on the Ethics Committee (Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Judy Biggert of Illinois, and Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania) offered to begin an investigation of Tom DeLay's travel scandals. The Democrats, led by Rep. Alan Mollahan of West Virginia, are holding up the formation of the committee to protest and insist on returning to some semblance of bipartisanship in the way the committee operates. An investigation into DeLay's wrongdoings would not begin until the committee agrees to the new rules, which appears not to be acceptable to Democrats, according to Mollohan's reaction yesterday. The Dems have made the GOP move, though.
If the committee acted in a bipartisan way, there would be no need for a grandstanding press conference by Hastings (or Mollohan for that matter) to jump start an investigation into DeLay. If the old rules were in place, the mechanism would be in place for an investigation to begin without worry of a partisan standoff. That's a no-brainer.
But obviously there's a political dynamic at play. That Hastings felt compelled to begin an investigation means that Republicans are feeling the heat and are concerned about the backlash back home.
Here's where I come down.
We ran TV ads in Hastings' district a few weeks ago that ended like this:
"Congressman Hastings. You're the chairman of the Ethics Committee. Do your job and clean up Congress... without DeLay."
We didn't end the ad like this:
"Congressman Hastings. You're the chairman of the Ethics Committee. Do your job and clean up DeLay... without Congress."
We're not looking for an isolated investigation led by an Ethics Chairman acting to minimize the political fallout for his party. We're looking for an investigation into all of DeLay's transgressions, as well as a look at whomever else has violated the rules of the House. "Clean up Congress... without DeLay" is not just a slogan. DeLay is symptomatic of a culture of corruption in Washington these days, and while he deserves to take a one-way trip back to Sugar Land, we deserve more from our government officials than decisions around the ethics committee based solely in political calculations, like Chairman Hastings' announcement yesterday.