Roll Call reports that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is effectively siding with Republicans who want more aggressive scrutiny of ethical charges against leading Democrats. He plans to offer a motion to reveal whether the Ethics Committee is investigating corruption charges against senior Democrats (notably John Murtha and Pete Visclosky) with regard to their dealings with a defunct lobbying group:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) plans to offer as early as Wednesday afternoon a privileged resolution to force the ethics committee to disclose whether it is investigating senior Democratic appropriators’ ties to the PMA Group, Democratic sources say.
Hoyer’s move follows eight attempts by Republican anti-earmark crusader Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) to jump-start a probe — and aims to pre-empt Flake’s ninth stab at the issue, which was due for a vote on Thursday. It marks a sharp break from Democratic leaders’ previous approach to the burgeoning controversy involving the now-defunct lobbying firm, which amounted to them trying to keep their ranks in line opposing the Flake resolutions.
In late winter, when Flake began his assault, Hoyer argued in leadership meetings that Democrats should embrace the resolution to neutralize it.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed back, contending that such a move would open lawmakers up to ethics witch-hunts down the line. Since then, Democrats have slowly peeled off to support Flake: While only 17 broke ranks on his first attempt, 29 supported his latest, offered just before the Memorial Day recess.
The move comes just after Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) acknowledged his offices and some staff had been subpoenaed as part of a federal probe into PMA. Other Democratic appropriators, including Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), have long ties to PMA and its clients.
Does Speaker Pelosi approve of Hoyer's move? Once it hits the floor, she's bound to say she does; any other approach makes her appear impotent. But she has opposed the move for months, and it has the potential to cause a great deal of trouble for her close friend and ally John Murtha.
And as to whether or not the Ethics Committee is currently conducting an investigation, is there any chance they're not? After all, Hoyer would presumably not want to reveal that House Democrats see nothing amiss here. If the committee wasn't conducting an investigation this morning, you can bet they started one when this news hit.
One side-effect of this move is likely to be more attention to the Murtha-Visclosky-PMA connection - and that might be embarrassing to Murtha, in particular. Loyal readers recall that Pelosi backed Murtha over Hoyer for the position of Majority Leader. Now Hoyer's move might even lead to Murtha's House career being cut short.
Payback is... unpleasant.
Also: I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the Democrats have been forced to this concession by the tireless efforts of Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to shed some light on the ethical violations of Democrat leaders. Bravo to Congressman Flake for forcing the Democrats to throw in the towel.