In the early mid 1990s the Republicans having just gained control of the US House of Representatives voted to have any leaders in the House to have to give up their leadership position while under indictment for a crime that could result in a prison term of greater than two years if convicted. This was put in to demonstrate that Republicans were more ethical than Democrats and to block a Democrat in that situation.
The Republicans have continued over the next ten years to run and campaign that they are more ethical and hold the moral ground better than the Democrats. (Whether they actually do or not is a different issue and the possible subject of another Thought). Now as they continue to make gains in the political leadership they have decided to change the rules.
Tom Delay is facing possible indictment for campaign irregularities and possible prison time greater than two years. Now the Republicans have decided that they do not want to possibly force him to step down. They have in turn changed the rules to the new rule being an indictment would be reviewed.
The reasons are given that the charges are only political charges and attempts by his political enemies to destroy him.
These charges may be political motivated, but since politics is people, any time charges are made against anyone for any thing, or charges are not made, there are politics involved. Whether the concern is for the victim, the victim’s family, the alleged perpetuator, etc., decisions on charges against anyone could be considered political. Secondly we are not just talking about a district attorney bringing charges, but an indictment, which means a grand jury, a group of citizens, believes enough of a case exists for it to be pursued.
The issue here should not be a party issue; Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens, Libertarians, etc. should all treat it the same. It is an ethical moral issue and all the House members should stand for not having a leader in Congress being currently legally prosecuted. Setting the cutoff spot at a two year prison term may be liberal, as a prison sentence of one year may be a better cutoff guideline (1/2 their term in office).
All in Congress, state houses, etc. should adopt a similar rule to suspend leaders under a major indictment. (I realize they do get hit with frivolous minor suits regularly by being in spotlight.) In addition any member of a legislative body under an indictment for a crime facing a possible penalty of prison more than two years in prison should voluntarily step aside until the legal issue is settled. (If they were government employees they would usually be put on administrative leave in a similar situation or fired). Congress, the Republicans in particular, should put the rule back to at least what it was. If they do not, then here is the Democrats chance to demonstrate their ethics, by calling for a vote on the floor on this issue, and to produce campaign fodder for 2006.
Whether the rules are changed back or not, if Tom DeLay is indicted, he should immediately at least step down from his congressional leadership position until the matter is settled. Even better would be that he suspend himself from Congress, since all members of Congress are actually considered national leaders.
If Republicans in Congress cannot fix this back ASAP, then I expect to hear nothing from the Republicans in the Georgia Senate questioning whether to seat Charles Walker in January. He is under indictment for numerous counts and just elected back to the state Senate. His claim is the same as DeLay’s supporters, that it is political motivated. There is always that question, and we need to let the courts decide the charges, but keep our leaders on the high ground.
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