WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor tonight in support of the ethics proposal that will create the Office of Congressional Ethics. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, I strongly support H. Res. 895, which embodies the thoughtful and hard work of the Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement, chaired by Rep. Capuano.
“This is a difficult issue for many Members – not because Members do not want a vigorous ethics enforcement process that stands up to public scrutiny, but because Members want to make sure that in this political institution the ethics process is fair.
“Since the late 1960s, the House has wrestled with the question of how best to police its own Members and uphold the highest standards of professional integrity in its Members without creating a system that can be easily manipulated for partisan reasons.
“Unfortunately, public faith in the House ethics process has eroded over the past 15 years – in no small part due to the unseemly revelations that Members – most notably former Reps. Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley -- abused the public trust placed in them by their constituents.
“And faith in our ethics process was further weakened by the perception that the House was institutionally incapable of disposing of charges against Members.
“That is changing. Since the start of the 110th Congress, there has been a commitment, expressed in both words and deeds, to rectify the public’s declining faith in our ability to police ourselves.
“Last year, this body adopted the most sweeping ethics reforms in a generation, enacting earmark reform, a ban on lobbyist gifts and lobbyist-financed trips to members, and improved disclosure of contributions from registered lobbyists, to name just a few.
“Today, the House is poised to build on last year’s progress.
“The proposed Office of Congressional Ethics will serve as an effective complement, but not a substitute for, the House Standards of Official Conduct.
“I recognize that some Members are uncomfortable with the idea of another group having a formal role in the House ethics process.
“I believe Rep. Capuano has listened to their concerns – with great care and sensitivity. And he has made changes to his resolution that address those concerns:
• Rep. Capuano’s resolution has stronger protections against leaks and disclosures.
• It requires both the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader to agree on all six Members of the Ethics Board.
• And it requires one Member from each party to agree before any investigation can begin.
“I have proudly served in this body for 27 years, and I am committed to the institutional and Constitutional prerogatives of this House.
“If I thought for one moment that H. Res. 895 imperiled the independence of the House or exposed Members to risks they do not already face, I would not support this resolution.
“But that is not the case.
“The proposed Ethics Office is a reasonable complement to the Standards Committee that will assist the latter’s performance and increase the public confidence.
“I urge my colleagues: Support this important resolution.”