Green gladly sheds ethics panel burden

Rep. Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenTexas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 MORE (D-Texas) has told Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that it is time for him to get rid of the uncomfortable job of policing his peers.

Green is the acting chairman of the ethics panel, appointed to the temporary post after former Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) died in August. In a brief interview before members left for the winter recess, Green said his time on the panel is limited and he has no interest in continuing the thankless job.

 

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“The Speaker and I have talked and I told her that I was ready to go,­ can’t get away fast enough, really,” he said.

House rules impose a three-term limit on ethics committee service, but that limit can and has been waived for the chair if the Speaker requests it.

“Very few people want to serve on the ethics committee, especially as chairman, so when they find someone willing to do it, they often keep them,” said Craig Holman, an ethics expert at Public Citizen.

Stan Brand, a Democratic ethics lawyer, said he remembers then-Rep. Louis Stokes’ (D-Ill.) angry reaction when he convinced then-Speaker Tip O’Neil (D-Mass.) to name him to chair the panel.

“Twenty minutes later I got a call from the floor because Stokes was trying to find me and he wasn’t happy,” Brand recalled.

Green said Pelosi has agreed to let him leave the committee, even though the timing may put her in an awkward position. The panel will face a mass exodus in January and is in the middle of investigating Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Democratic Reps. Lucille Roybal Allard (Calif.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.), who also have served their three terms, are expected to depart. Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottTen notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment Critics fear widespread damage from Trump 'public charge' rule Democrats: Trump plan could jeopardize 500,000 children's free school meals MORE (D-Va.), who was tapped to replace Tubbs Jones, also said he too does not expect to remain on the committee.

Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), who joined the committee last year, is the only Democratic member without a term-limits excuse to leave the panel. For that reason, Democratic sources said, he is the most likely to be tasked with wielding the gavel.

On the Republican side, Rep. Doc HastingsRichard (Doc) Norman HastingsCongress just resolved a 20-year debate over Neolithic remains Boehner hires new press secretary GOP plots new course on Endangered Species Act reform MORE (Wash.) must leave the ranking spot after winning the top GOP position on the Natural Resources Committee after Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungThe Hill's Morning Report — The wall problem confronting Dems and the latest on Dorian House passes bill requiring CBP to enact safety, hygiene standards GOP scores procedural win by securing more funding to enforce Iran sanctions MORE (R-Alaska) was forced out earlier this month. The other Republicans on the panel, Reps. Jo Bonner (Ala.), Gresham Barrett (S.C.), John Kline (Minn.) and Michael McCaul (Texas), were newly named to the committee this Congress and are expected to stay on.

The mad dash out off the panel will take place at the end of this Congress in early January, the same time Pelosi said she expects the ethics panel to wrap up its investigation in the allegations piling up around Rangel.

The comment got Pelosi into some hot water with Republicans because the ethics committee’s activities are supposed to be secret and completely free from even the appearance of any outside interference.

Since her comments, the panel has expanded its Rangel probe to include new allegations.

If Delahunt is named chair, Pelosi must find other Democrats she can strong-arm into serving on the panel, which will continue to review any new allegations against Rangel, or the existing charges if the current committee does not finish its work and issue an initial report on its findings. Any choice Pelosi makes will be analyzed for any Rangel implications. If the member is African-American, that could be viewed as an attempt to help Rangel, even if Pelosi tries to sell it as a way to fill Tubbs Jones’ old post with another African American.

“This puts the Speaker in a very awkward position,” said Holman. “She does not want to get in the middle of defending or attacking Rangel.”

Brand suggested Rep. Mike Capuano, the straight-talking Democrat from Massachusetts who led the creation of Pelosi’s unpopular new Outside Ethics Office, which will provide some type of independent review to a tarnished ethics process. But even as he was doing it, Brand apologized for mentioning his Capuano’s name.

“He just struck me as someone who had the right sensibility and the right demeanor for the job ­ a solid, institutional person who doesn’t take it personally when he gets criticized from both ends of the political spectrum,” Brand said.

Capuano spokesman Allison Mills was tight-lipped on the topic.

“That’s not a rumor we have not heard,” she said.