This fall, Democrats are defending far more Senate seats than the Republicans, making the retention of their slender hold on the upper house highly questionable. Any opportunity to knock off a GOP incumbent is a matter of life for the Democrats’ hopes of keeping at least half of Congress in their possession. That has made the battle for Nevada’s Senate seat one of the most watched races in the country, especially because challenger Rep. Shelley Berkley has been widely seen as a formidable threat to the future of Republican incumbent Dean Heller.
So the news that the House Ethics Committee has voted unanimously to launch an investigation of the charge she used her political clout to help her husband’s business is especially damaging not just to her ambitions but to the Democrats’ hopes of remaining in charge of the Senate next year. Given the snail’s pace at which the committee generally works, which makes it unlikely she could be cleared before November, this could be a fatal blow to her candidacy and make it that much harder for her fellow Nevadan Harry Reid to hold on to the post of majority leader. But while the political effects of this case may gladden conservatives, this is not a case of venality as much as it is one that raises questions about whether it is possible for a member of Congress to have a spouse involved in any business that interacts with the government.
If the Democrats didn’t have an increasingly unpopular president, an anti-Washington electorate, a limping economy, and enough ethics problems, along comes this:
Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) will not seek reelection after only one term in office. According to several House aides — on both sides of the aisle — the House Ethics Committee has been informed of allegations that Massa, who is married with two children, sexually harassed a male staffer. Massa, whose departure endangers Democrats’ hold on a competitive seat, told POLITICO Wednesday afternoon that no one has brought allegations of misconduct to him.
Yes, it does remind one of the 2006 Mark Foley scandal, although no word on the age of the staffer. One wonders if the media will be obsessed with uncovering what Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership knew about this one, and when they knew it. In any case, it’s more kindling on the fire and more reason for disgusted voters to throw incumbents out, most of whom, of course, are Democrats. On a day in which Democrats would no doubt be delighted to talk about the president’s determination to disregard the voters’ wishes on health-care reform … er … push through his signature legislation, they will instead be in for another bad news cycle.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperviousness to reality knows no bounds. The Hill reports:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s once again sticking by embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — at least for now.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.
“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”
Pelosi is flat wrong. From the House Ethics Committee press release: “The Report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences.”
Nor are Pelosi’s members as out to lunch as she is. Politico reports: “Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright.”
It is hard to see what Pelosi will achieve by this sort of performance — other than cement her reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with the facts and who has, after achieving the position of Speaker of the House, been rendered politically tone deaf.