Will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stand up and defend her signature “drain the swamp” ethics initiative from members of her own party? Doesn’t look like it.
At her weekly press conference yesterday, I asked Pelosi whether or not she supported a move led by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus to significantly scale back the authority of the Office of Congressional Ethics. She punted.
“At the end of each Congress we review the rules and we will review the rules as we go forward,” Pelosi said. “I think that the outside ethics group is important progress to be made as far as building public confidence in what happens in Washington, DC. I sympathize with the motivation that the congresswoman has for her letter but at this time this is not the time. We will deal with it in the regular order of business at the end of the session.”
Pressed to explain her sympathy for the push, Pelosi was vague.
“[T]he communication I have with Members is we all have to have a stipulation of fact, the same facts, on what has happened, and nd when that happens, we will make some judgments about how we go forward,” Pelosi said. “But when I say ‘sympathize’ she has certain concerns — I shouldn’t say ‘sympathize’ — I respect them. But the fact is that this is not the time for us to change the outside committee.
Fudge’s own chief of staff was a target of the OCE, and she truly wants to put a muzzle on it. The fact of the matter, though, is that there’s fairly wide sentiment within both parties that the OCE reaches too far, suffers from a leak problem, and otherwise abuses it’s authority.
But Pelosi’s in a bit of a bind on this one, on a couple of levels. The Fudge resolution may go to far, but she can’t say she opposes it entirely. Likewise, for political reasons, she’d have a hard time admitting that the Democrats might hamstring the ethics board when it’s only been up and running for a year. And in the meantime, Republicans are keeping quiet, enjoying the bind they think Democrats created for themselves.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.