Pelosi: Ethics Changes Coming ‘Soon’

Posted June 1, 2007 at 5:55pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that the House leadership is close to unveiling its proposed changes to the House ethics committee structure.

“We’ll be making some announcements about how we deal with the ethics process,” Pelosi said at the close of a press conference on global warming and a related Congressional delegation with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and others during the Memorial Day recess.

While Pelosi did not offer specific details about the impending changes, she suggested that a new entity could be created to file complaints with the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Currently, only Members can file ethics complaints against each other.

“How [the committee] functions is one thing … how complaints can be brought to it by having some outside group be part of that process is what we’re working on now,” Pelosi said. “We’ll have an announcement about that soon.”

Democratic and Republican House leaders established a special task force earlier this year to study whether Congress should establish an outside commission to review potential ethics complaints.

The eight-member group, led by Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), was initially slated to finish its work May 1 and is now expected to report its findings to House leadership this month.

The Massachusetts lawmaker could not be reached for comment Friday, but a Democratic leadership aide said the task force is expected to recommend the creation of an independent panel to investigate ethics cases and advise the House committee, which would remain intact.

The new panel, with members appointed by the Democratic and Republican leadership, would not include House Members or lobbyists, the aide confirmed.

However, it remains to be seen whether Democratic freshmen, many of whom ran for office on anti-corruption campaigns, would support such a measure, having endorsed a proposal authored by Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) that would go further by abolishing the existing ethics committee and replacing it with an independent, bipartisan commission made up of former Members who are not lobbyists. Nearly four dozen lawmakers have signed on to the bill.

In recent years a handful of Members and outside advocates have floated similar proposals, asserting that the ethics committee in the House has lacked the courage to effectively investigate Members.