Yahoo News: A seven-year ethics truce between congressional Republicans and Democrats has begun to fray under the weight of mounting alleged abuses by House GOP leaders and tensions among Democrats over how aggressively to pursue the matters.
Some Democrats and outside groups think the reported wrongdoings have reached a critical mass that cries out for investigations and reforms. Democratic leaders, however, are wary of breaking the long cease-fire that has protected both parties from the types of ethics charges and countercharges that roiled Congress and toppled two speakers in the 1980s and '90s.
Central to the debate is the House ethics committee, largely dormant since the unwritten truce took effect but rousing in recent days to defend itself against the rain of criticism. Watchdog groups are demanding that the secretive panel show more vigor in pursuing published reports of questionable behavior by lawmakers, and they want an end to the House-approved 1997 rule that bars ethics inquiries based solely on complaints from outsiders.
Some Democratic activists also are seething, convinced their elected officials are letting Republicans flout ethical standards in ways that were unthinkable when the GOP took control of the House in 1994. Republicans had attacked the entrenched Democrats' abuse of the House bank and post office and vowed to end Congress's "cycle of scandal."
The recent allegations touch top lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and several committee chairmen. They involve suggestions of bribery and threats on the House floor, illegal use of campaign funds, misuse of a federal agency for political purposes, conflicts of interest, and strong-arm tactics against lobbyists and campaign contributors.