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House Rejects Democratic Resolution on Ethics Staffing

Seeking to force the GOP leadership’s hand in the ongoing battle over staffing the House ethics committee, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduced a privileged resolution Thursday directing the panel to appoint a non-partisan staff immediately.

Pelosi’s resolution was rejected on a straight party line vote of 219 to 199.

Reps. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the chairman and ranking member of the ethics committee, have deadlocked over Hastings’ proposal to give more authority over committee operations to his top aide, Ed Cassidy. Hastings believes an enhanced role for Cassidy at the panel, one that would essentially make him co-staff director with Mollohan’s staffer on the committee, Colleen McCarty, will help the committee run more effectively and make the panel more useful in assisting Members and staff.

Mollohan, however, has rejected Hastings’ proposal, charging that it violates committee rules which say the panel’s staff must be non-partisan, and he and the four other Democrats on the panel have refused to allow it to move forward beyond its initial organization until the issue is resolved.

Both sides blame the other for the staffing stalemate, now in its sixth week, and charge that it is an attempt by their political opponents to gain partisan advantage as the committee prepares to investigate House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and other lawmakers for alleged violations of Congressional rules on overseas travel.

Pelosi’s resolution criticized Hastings’ attempt to appoint Cassidy to the ethics panel, claiming that deadlock over the staffing issue has “subjected the House to public ridicule and produced contempt for the ethics process, thus bringing discredit to the House.” If it had been adopted, the ethics committee would have been required to appoint “non-partisan professional staff.”

Hastings and other Republicans have pointed out that Cassidy would have no authority at all over committee investigations, and the Evergreen State Republican even suggested that investigative staff be moved out of the Capitol to ensure that their work is not interfered with in any fashion.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) blasted Pelosi’s initiative.

“The Speaker believes the Democratic Leadership should stop trying to influence the House Ethics Committee,” said Ron Bonjean, Hastert’s spokesman, in a statement. “These type of matters should be left to the Chairman and Ranking Member to decide and should not be tainted by hands of the Minority Leader.”

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