NOT a good idea, Republicans.
Tom DeLay may be great in his job; he may be one of the party's favorite sons -- but you can't have the rules both ways.
It's been only a few years since Republicans grabbed power in the house by changing that very rule. The original House fight went on for several years and ended in 1997, when Republicans and Democrats agreed to an truce to end a long series of ethics charges and countercharges throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The ethics war helped topple two speakers -- Democrat Jim Wright and Republican Newt Gingrich -- and helped the GOP take control of the House in 1994. The rule that resolved all that was the one requiring leadership to step down in case of a Federal indictment.
Also, changing the rule "violates the spirit of the Congressional Accountability Act a GOP-inspired law that forces Congress to follow federal laws that apply to the private sector," according to a report by ABC news.
Remember the old warning about not changing horses in midstream? Remember in 2002 when Democrats tried to change election rules while the Florida votes were being counted and the Supreme Court shot them down? If it's not good for the goose it shouldn't work for the gander.
"It really looks like the Republican house members have made a serious mistake this time," according to the Washington Post. I think so, too. The reason I've been a Republican (when I wasn't a Democrat!) is I like who they are. For the most part, they tell the truth even when it hurts, they do what's best for the country without considering their careers and I can trust them to do the ethical thing -- at least the Republicans I've voted for were that way.
But you can't go changing the rules in the middle of the game. If DeLay is innocent the court will say so; then he can go back to work as leader of the House. In the meantime, he should step down. If the Democrats are playing nasty games, charge them with ethics violations.
I like to think DeLay is innocent and simply a victim of Democratic games-playing. But he's been tarnished by other mud as well. According to another Post article, "The ethics committee on Wednesday faulted DeLay's actions in involving a federal agency in a Texas partisan dispute. It also admonished him for his dealings with officers of a Kansas energy company who gave his political committees $25,000 and claimed they received legislative help in return. Last week, the ethics panel publicly admonished DeLay for offering to endorse the political campaign of a Michigan lawmaker's son if the legislator would give a crucially needed vote on the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill. And in 1999, the committee privately chastised him for threatening to retaliate against a Washington trade group for hiring a Democrat as its president."
There's another side to the story:
It seems that Rep. DeLay has been increasingly successful in passing a more conservative agenda than previous Republicans. According to the Washington Times"In recent years, the U.S. House has pushed a bold reform agenda — especially on economic matters. Even those who have not been pleased with this turn of political events agree that a crucial factor in this ideological shift to the right in the House has been House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and his whip system, which has been operating with increasing efficiency since 1995. Both sides of the national debate agree that Mr. DeLay, who has earned the nickname "the Hammer," has run the strongest whip operation in the House in decades.
You now know all you have to know about why Tom DeLay is under increasing fire for trumped-up ethics violations. Mr. DeLay is despised by the left, not because his actions have been illegal, but because they've been completely effective at neutering the left."
Well, now. That puts a new dawg in the fight!
As someone who has, just in the past few weeks, been accused of being a "white supremacist," "stupid," "uneducated," "racist," and a whole bunch of other epithets that really don't apply to me at all, coming from Democrats who have never met me or talked to me -- well. That experience colors the way I see Mr. DeLay's situation.
So. I will wait and let the courts decide DeLay's situation. In the meantime, though, I'll stick by my original contention: Republicans: Don't change the rules for one person. There are better ways to use power.