House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) plans to offer as early as Wednesday afternoon a privileged resolution to force the ethics committee to disclose whether it is investigating senior Democratic appropriators’ ties to the PMA Group, Democratic sources say.
Hoyer’s move follows eight attempts by Republican anti-earmark crusader Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) to jump-start a probe — and aims to pre-empt Flake’s ninth stab at the issue, which was due for a vote on Thursday. It marks a sharp break from Democratic leaders’ previous approach to the burgeoning controversy involving the now-defunct lobbying firm, which amounted to them trying to keep their ranks in line opposing the Flake resolutions.
In late winter, when Flake began his assault, Hoyer argued in leadership meetings that Democrats should embrace the resolution to neutralize it.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed back, contending that such a move would open lawmakers up to ethics witch-hunts down the line. Since then, Democrats have slowly peeled off to support Flake: While only 17 broke ranks on his first attempt, 29 supported his latest, offered just before the Memorial Day recess.
The move comes just after Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) acknowledged his offices and some staff had been subpoenaed as part of a federal probe into PMA. Other Democratic appropriators, including Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), have long ties to PMA and its clients.
Hoyer squared off against Murtha in 2006 for the Majority Leader post, beating him by an overwhelming margin.