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Decision on DeLay Ethics Probe Postponed

The House ethics committee has postponed a decision on whether to begin an investigation of Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for another 45 days, Democratic and GOP sources said late Thursday.

Reps. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) and Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the panel’s chairman and ranking member, respectively, now have until early September to decide if their panel will take up a complaint against DeLay that was filed by Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas).

On Thursday, DeLay filed a lengthy response to Bell’s complaint — a massive filing that one GOP insider described as a call for the ethics panel to dismiss Bell’s “invalid, illegitimate and politically motivated” complaint.

Bell has alleged that DeLay illegally solicited campaign contributions in return for favorable legislation, misused a Texas political action committee to improperly funnel corporate donations to Texas state candidates, and abused his office. DeLay and his GOP supporters have vehemently denied the charges.

The ethics committee was scheduled to release a statement tonight or early tomorrow announcing its decision, but no statement was released by press time.

In the meantime, the ethics committee is also continuing its investigation into whether GOP lawmakers improperly pressured Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) during a Nov. 22 vote on Medicare reform legislation, said House insiders. The panel now hopes to complete that investigation by the end of September, although it is unclear when Hefley and Mollohan expect to have a final disposition in that case.

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