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Hoyer Says Ethics May Be Required to Probe Fossella

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday morning that the House ethics committee may be required to look into possible violations of House rules by Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.).

Hoyer said he didn’t want to comment directly on the Fossella case but elaborated by saying that ethics “has a responsibility” to investigate a lawmaker’s behavior “at any time that it knows of conduct that may be in violation of the rules or affect adversely on the institution.”

The Staten Island lawmaker announced late Monday night that he wouldn’t run for re-election after a May 1 drunken-driving arrest that forced the revelation of an affair and an out-of-wedlock daughter.

Fossella admitted to an extramarital affair with retired Air Force official Laura Fay, with whom he went on Congressional trips. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a left-leaning watchdog group, urged the ethics committee to investigate the allegedly improper use of taxpayer dollars to fund travel to pursue the affair.

Those actions are something “certainly that would fall under” the purview of the ethics committee, Hoyer said.

Meanwhile, in his weekly press briefing, Hoyer ran down the likely schedule this week before the Memorial Day recess on Friday.

Hoyer said the House will first consider tax-extender energy legislation Wednesday and then move to the fiscal 2009 budget conference report, on which House-Senate conferees reached an agreement Monday.

Also Wednesday, lawmakers will begin general debate on the fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill. Debate will continue into Thursday, largely because of Members filing “a very large number of amendments,” Hoyer said.

Possible amendments to the defense authorization bill include a proposal by House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) that would lay the groundwork for the Defense and State departments to better coordinate their efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Skelton also may team up with Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) on an amendment that would establish a “standing advisory panel” to make recommendations on improving interagency coordination on national security projects.

GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, may push to restore funding to the president’s request for missile defense initiatives.

Looking ahead to June and July, Hoyer said to expect House action on a wide range of issues, including a school construction bill, authorization bills for NASA and Amtrak, legislation to address the alternate minimum tax, and a bill to restore provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ADA has been “weakened by some recent Supreme Court decisions,” Hoyer said.

Also on track for June are the war supplemental bill, housing legislation, higher education bills and consumer product safety legislation. The Majority Leader also said to expect action on legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Previously, Hoyer had said he hoped to finish action this week on the FISA bill, which has stalled for months over provisions that would grant retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that aided the Bush administration in warrantless wiretapping.

Congressional leaders sent a proposed compromise to the White House on Friday, Hoyer said.

One item not set for action in the near future is the Colombia free-trade agreement, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has held up to allow for further negotiations with the White House.

“We don’t right now have plans for Colombia in June or July,” Hoyer said.

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