House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that a number of ethical crises that have affected members of her caucus are now "behind us."
Pelosi remained confident that House Democrats could survive the ethics' committee's admonishment of former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and allegations of abuse brought against Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), who announced his retirement Wednesday.
"The problems of the last few days, they're behind us," Pelosi said at a press briefing. "We have a new chairman of the Ways and Means Committee."
Pelosi's comments came after Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) was appointed the second acting chairman of the powerful Ways and Means panel in the past 25 hours.
The first acting chairman, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) relinquished the chairmanship to Levin. Stark framed his decision as a move to remain chairman of the panel's health subcommittee. But some members of the Ways and Means Committee objected to Stark's chairmanship. The close Pelosi ally is known as a liberal firebrand and has also faced ethics inquiries.
But even though the Ways and Means chairmanship has been resolved for the time being, more ethics problems could arise for both Rangel and Massa. Mounting questions about Pelosi's 2006 promise to run the "most open and most
ethical Congress in history" have arisen since the Rangel admonishment.
Rangel stepped down as chairman Wednesday pending the results of a wide-ranging ethics committee investigation. The committee admonished him last week for improper trips to the Caribbean but other real estate and financial disclosure issues remain to be probed.
Afterward, Pelosi was asked if she is still running the most ethical Congress and she replied "we are."
A member of Massa's staff filed a complaint against the freshman congressman nearly a month ago. Massa reportedly made the aide feel uncomfortable but the exact details of the complaint are still unknown. The allegations came to the forefront after Massa announced his retirement yesterday, citing the recent recurrence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He denied any wrongdoing.
Pelosi said that her Congress has "functioning, bipartisan" and independent ethics committee that has handled problems with individual lawmakers. She also cited the creation of an outside group to receive ethics complaints.
"I think we have come a long way since I became Speaker," she said.