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Convenient Rule Changing

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Location: Washington, DC


CONVENIENT RULE CHANGING -- (House of Representatives - November 17, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, earlier today during the one minutes I got up and admonished the House Republican Conference because we heard at the time that there was a possibility that they would adopt a rule change that would overturn a previous and current GOP rule that requires House leaders to automatically relinquish their post if they are indicted on charges that could carry a sentence of 2 or more years in prison.

Now, according to Congress Daily and several other sources, in fact the Republican conference today did agree by voice vote to overturn this GOP rule, which would mean that it is no longer the case that House leaders, whether it be the Speaker, the majority leader, whatever, would automatically relinquish their post if they face such an indictment.

I said before and I will say again, now that we know the House Republican Conference has indeed adopted this rule change, that it really is inappropriate and that they should be admonished, because for many years they had touted this rule as an example of how they were always going to do the right thing and basically show that they were beyond reproach.

Now I wanted to read, if I could, some sections or quote from some sections of the Washington Post today that explain essentially why this rule change is taking place. It says, "GOP Pushes Rule Change to Protect DeLay's Post. House Republicans proposed changing their rules last night," and it in fact has changed, "to allow members indicted by State grand juries to remain in a leadership post.

"The proposed rule change, which several leaders predicted would win approval at a closed meeting today," and it did, "comes as House Republicans return to Washington feeling indebted to" majority leader DeLay for the slightly enhanced majority they won in this month's elections. DeLay led an aggressive redistricting effort in Texas last year that resulted in five Democratic House Members retiring or losing reelection.

"House Republicans adopted the indictment rule in 1993 when they were trying to end four decades of Democratic control of the House ..... They said at the time that they held themselves to higher standards than prominent Democrats."

Well, obviously, Mr. Speaker, their holding themselves to higher standards is no longer the case, because now when they see it might impact one of their leaders, they simply change the rule.

The Washington Post goes on to say in this front-page article that, "The GOP rule drew little notice until this fall, when DeLay's associates were indicted and Republican lawmakers began to worry that their majority leader might be forced to step aside."

"House Republicans recognize that DeLay fought fiercely to widen their majority, and they are eager to protect him from an Austin-based investigation they view as baseless and partisan," said one of the Republican Congressmen. He is quoted as saying, "That's why this (proposed rule change) is going to pass ..... because there is a tremendous recognition that Tom DeLay led on the issue to produce five more seats for the Republicans." After emerging from a meeting of the Republican Conference, it was assumed that in fact the rule would pass.

It did, in fact, pass. I think that it is absolutely disgraceful that it did. And I was very pleased also to see in Congress Daily today that the Democrats, who have a similar rule that requires a ranking member to step down in the event of an indictment, are now working to change the caucus rules to include a provision similar to the one that the GOP just overturned.

So what we will have now is the Republicans saying that they never wanted to do this and that if any of their leadership ever was indicted that they would certainly ask them to step down. Now that they face the possibility, they have decided to change their minds. It does not say much about ethical lapses, and it certainly, I think, will get a lot of scrutiny from the American people who will not want to see this change take place.

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