In a statement that may be a violation of committee rules, the five Republican members of the House ethics committee are calling for the ethics chairwoman to schedule hearings for two Democratic members before the election.
Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) were charged in August, separately, with violating ethics rules. The next step is for the committee to hold a trial-like adjudicatory hearing for each, and then recommend punishment that can range from reprimand to expulsion.
“The Chairwoman has repeatedly refused to set either the Rangel or Waters trial before the November election,” ranking member Rep. Jo Bonner wrote in a statement. “While we regret that the Committee has not worked together in a bipartisan fashion to ensure the transparent and fair resolution of these matters to date, we look forward to working with the Chairwoman in a bipartisan manner to accomplish this — and other important unfinished Committee business — in the coming weeks”
The chairwoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), was not available for comment. Her spokesman said she was flying to D.C. from her district.
But a senior Democratic aide said Dems were “very surprised” by the statement. The aide accused the Republicans of ignoring their efforts, over the past two days, to set a date for the hearings and purposely releasing a statement when Lofgren was in the air.
The aide also said the statement itself breaks an ethics committee rule that statements can only be issued by the ranking member or chairman after they consult with one another, or by a vote of the full committee.
The rule reads, “Unless otherwise determined by a vote of the Committee, only the Chair or Ranking Minority Member of the Committee, after consultation with each other, may make public statements regarding matters before the Committee or any subcommittee.”
As far as timing of the hearings, the aide said they were tentatively planning to do one before the election and one after — but the dates are subject to a vote by the committee.
Bonner did not immediately return a request for comment. In his statement, he said he “does not intend to comment further.”
The other four Republicans are K. Michael Conaway, Charles Dent, Gregg Harper and Michael McCaul.