Rep. Nick Smith Responds To Congressional Admonishment Over Actions Related to New Medicare Law
Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) on Friday released statements responding to a House ethics committee's public admonishment released last week concerning his and two other lawmakers' actions during last year's vote on the new Medicare law, CongressDaily reports (Davis/Wegner, CongressDaily, 10/1).
In December, Smith, who plans to retire this year, said that unnamed Republican lawmakers promised to donate $100,000 to the congressional campaign of his son, Brad Smith, in exchange for his support on the Medicare Modernization Act. 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 Smith 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 ultimately voted against the Medicare legislation.
In March, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct announced that a four-member subcommittee would "conduct a full and complete inquiry" into the case. The subcommittee released a 62-page report on Thursday that admonished Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for possibly breaking House rules by offering support for Smith's son in exchange for a vote and threatening retaliation if Smith did not vote for the Medicare bill. The report, which concluded that Smith was not offered a bribe for his vote, also admonished Smith for making comments based on "speculation or exaggeration" and for not fully cooperating with the ethics committee.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice also have launched investigations into the case (California Healthline, 10/1).
Smith's statements focused on the committee's findings regarding DeLay and Miller's actions, CongressDaily reports. "What seems to be lost in the debate over the prescription drug vote is the fact that many members refused to vote for the Medicare bill despite enormous pressure," Smith stated, adding, "I can also say that the proudest moment for me in this entire affair was when (Smith's son) Brad reinforced my convictions, told me to do the right thing and ignore offers that would have helped his campaign for Congress" (CongressDaily, 10/1).
The "surprising" admonishment of DeLay, who "had not figured prominently in the controversy" surrounding Smith, comes as he faces other "potentially more serious [ethics] accusations" that "even some Republicans say could complicate his political future," the New York Times reports. Some congressional officials said the admonishment might be part of a trade that would discourage the ethics committee from investigating DeLay's fund-raising and other activities in Texas and Washington, D.C.
However, others said the public admonishment means the ethics committee "now [has] no choice but to look into those accusations," the Times reports. According to the Times, "more than one Republican ... said Mr. DeLay's ethics history might make it difficult for him to become speaker someday."
An unnamed Republican said, "There are a lot of folks who want to see that happen, and they're a little depressed right now." Another unnamed Republican official said the admonishment, which the ethics committee released one week before it is expected to rule on DeLay's other ethics investigation, "is like a second hurricane" (Hulse/Stolberg, New York Times, 10/2).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the public admonishment increases the "ethical cloud" over DeLay. Pelosi added that she thought DeLay's actions were "completely inappropriate. It was a quid pro quo for a vote" (CongressDaily, 10/1).
According to CQ Weekly, some Republican House leaders "appear to be remaining resolutely supportive" of DeLay, who has earned the nickname "The Hammer" through his "partisan assertiveness in dealing with other lawmakers and lobbyists."
John Feehery, a spokesperson for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said, "This won't hurt DeLay" (Ferrechio, CQ Weekly, 10/2).
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, said the admonishment would be a "nonstory" by Monday (New York Times, 10/2).