The lurid charges levied against J. Dennis Hastert have sent chills through lawmakers who know the former House speaker — but Republican leaders have remained largely silent on what, if anything, Congress should do in response.
After the Illinois Republican was indicted last month and accused of paying hush money to keep secret allegations he molested male students when he was a high school teacher, Hastert's alma mater, Wheaton College, took his name off the school's center on economics and public policy. On Capitol Hill, members are being asked whether his official portrait should be removed from its place of prominence in the wall of the Speaker's Lobby.
Speaker John A. Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have both said they need to see more details before taking such dramatic, if symbolic, action. But one member of Congress recently had a moment with the portrait that suggested the revelations are on everybody's mind.
Rep. Louise M. Slaughter of New York, a 29-year House veteran, one of the chamber's oldest Democrats and the party's longtime senior member on the Rules Committee, was making her way through the Speaker's Lobby late on June 9 following the first vote series of the week.
Some members were still gathered on the floor to debate remaining amendments on an appropriations bill, but almost everyone else had emptied out of the place, rushing back to offices, receptions, dinners or apartments — respites before they had to come back for a second, late-night round of voting.
Slaughter, with an aide, stopped in the empty hallway in front of the portrait of Hastert, a depiction of a big, friendly-looking man gazing off to the side, large glasses taking up much of his ruddy face, holding the gavel and standing beside the mace.
She shook her head and sighed.
"Look at that," she said, as if to herself. "The secrets that man kept."
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