House Panel Launches Probe Into Alleged Bribery for Medicare Vote
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct on Wednesday voted to begin a formal investigation into allegations that unnamed Republican lawmakers last November "improperly pressured" Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) to vote in favor of the Medicare legislation, Roll Call reports (Bresnahan, Roll Call, 3/18). In December, Smith, who plans to retire this year, said that unnamed Republican lawmakers promised to donate $100,000 to his son's congressional campaign in exchange for his support on the Medicare bill. However, Smith later retracted the comment and said that allegations of bribery are "technically incorrect." According to Smith, some Republican lawmakers had said that they would oppose his son's campaign if he did not vote in favor of the Medicare legislation, but they did not offer to donate funds to the campaign, as previous reports had indicated. Smith voted against the Medicare legislation. The House ethics committee has conducted an informal investigation into the case situation (California Healthline, 2/26). FBI and the Department of Justice also have launched investigations into the case (Roll Call, 3/18). In a statement released Wednesday, the House ethics committee said that a subcommittee will "conduct a full and complete inquiry" into the case (Kenen, Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/18). The investigation will focus on statements made by Smith in a Nov. 28 newspaper column in his district and a Dec. 1 interview with a Michigan radio station (Ferrechio, CQ Today, 3/17). At the end of the investigation, the subcommittee will issue a report to the full committee; the committee will not release the report to the public unless members vote to take additional action. Ethics committee Chair Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) and ranking member Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) will select four subcommittee members "very soon," Roll Call reports (Roll Call, 3/18).
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who has called on the House ethics committee to conduct a formal investigation into the Smith case, said in a statement, "I believe that this is an appropriate and necessary action and the only way the House can remove the cloud of suspicion that hangs over this matter to this day" (Stolberg, New York Times, 3/18). Smith said in a statement that he would "cooperate fully with the inquiry," adding that the "committee should be permitted to conduct its work without further public comment by any party" (Wegner, CongressDaily, 3/18). Smith has met with Hefley and Mollohan to discuss the case, CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 3/17). Brendan Daly, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said, "These are serious allegations, and this is an appropriate step for the committee to take." Mark Glaze, a spokesperson for the Campaign Legal Center, which first filed complaints about the Smith case with DOJ, said that the group is "happy that the committee has decided to do the right thing." Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project, said that the committee investigation should not interfere with DOJ's investigation (Roll Call, 3/18). In an interview with The Hill, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) "dismissed new questions" about the case as "partisan rancor" and said he would "take a hands-off approach" to the subcommittee's investigation (Kaplan, The Hill, 3/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.