Leaders Must Fill Ethics Vacancies

Posted December 16, 2008 at 2:16pm

A handful of lawmakers are about to draw the proverbial short straw of committee assignments: a seat on the House ethics panel.

House leaders are preparing to tap new Members for the panel’s top posts, and Democrats must also fill a majority of their five committee seats as Members are term-limited out of their service on the panel.

Acting Chairman Gene Green (D-Texas) has not indicated whether he will seek the chairmanship in the 111th Congress, but would otherwise be term-limited from continuing service on the committee.

While House rules limit Member service on the committee to three Congressional terms in a 10-year period, a lawmaker may serve a fourth term as the panel’s chairman or ranking member.

Republicans must also replace ranking member Doc Hastings (Wash.), who recently gained the top GOP seat on the Natural Resources Committee after Republicans stripped the post from Rep. Don Young (Alaska), who faces legal scrutiny for his relationship to an oil services company and a transportation project in Florida.

“We’re in the process of moving ahead and discussing the vacancies with Members to serve on this critical committee,” said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) spokesman Michael Steel echoed that statement when asked about the ranking member seat: “It’s certainly a priority.”

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct comprises 10 seats equally divided between the two parties. Pelosi and Boehner are tasked with appointing the panel’s membership, an often unenviable assignment for most Members because of the prospect of investigating and even sanctioning their own colleagues.

In addition to Green, Democrats will also need to fill seats now occupied by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.), who are also term-limited from continued service on the panel.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who joined the panel following the September death of then-Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), said Tuesday that he does not anticipate continuing service on the panel.

“It’s my expectation that I will not be on the committee at all,” Scott said, noting that he agreed to serve only on a temporary basis through the close of the 110th Congress. “I have no desire to be on the committee.”

If none of the term-limited Members is offered the chairmanship, that would leave Rep. Bill Delahunt (Mass.) as the only Democratic committee member expected to return to the panel in the 111th Congress.

A Delahunt spokesman could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and Delahunt has not publicly addressed whether he is interested in the chairmanship.

Republicans are expected to have fewer seats to fill in January, with the majority of their committee members assigned to the panel in the 110th Congress.

Those lawmakers include Reps. Gresham Barrett (S.C.), Jo Bonner (Ala.), John Kline (Minn.) and Michael McCaul (Texas), none of whom has publicly discussed interest in the chairmanship.