House Punts Massa Resolution to Ethics Panel

Posted April 14, 2010 at 3:53pm

Updated: 5:09 p.m.

The House on Wednesday curbed a Republican-led effort to force a new inquiry into what Democratic leaders knew about allegations of sexual harassment against former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), referring the proposal to the ethics panel for further review.

The measure passed 235-157, with 17 Members voting present.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday had renewed his call for the House ethics committee to launch an investigation.

A House Democratic leadership aide, who asked not to be identified on the ethics matter, criticized GOP lawmakers for raising the resolution a second time as political theater.

“It was confirmed weeks ago that the ethics committee is looking into the Massa issue. Therefore, Mr. Boehner’s resolution is unnecessary — and really only can be saying one of two things, he doesn’t trust the people he’s appointed to the committee to fulfill their responsibilities or it’s a political stunt. Take your pick,” the aide said. Democrats also noted that Republicans voted in support of the March 11 referral.

But Boehner spokesman Michael Steel rejected that characterization, asserting Democrats are attempting to sidestep an investigation.

“House Republicans just voted to start a real investigation of what Democratic leaders knew, when they knew it, and what they did to protect Rep. Massa’s staff. House Democrats just voted to continue trying to sweep these important questions under the rug,” Steel said.

Massa resigned from the House in March and is no longer under the committee’s jurisdiction, but GOP lawmakers have called for an inquiry into when Democratic leaders learned of allegations against him and how they responded.

The House previously approved a similar Republican-sponsored resolution March 11 for an inquiry into the Massa case by the ethics committee, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

The ethics committee announced an investigation into Massa in early March but has not issued any subsequent statements.

Massa allegedly sexually harassed several of his Congressional aides. Massa denied any wrongdoing during several television and radio interviews last month but admitted to using “salty language” and engaging in improper physical contact with his staff.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office acknowledged last month that Hoyer aides had been alerted to allegations against Massa in February. Hoyer’s staff directed Massa’s aides to report the matter to the ethics committee or Hoyer would do so himself.

A Hoyer spokeswoman said in mid-March that the office had been contacted by the ethics committee after Massa’s departure, suggesting the inquiry is ongoing.

Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.