Robert Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The decision by the House Republican leadership to go back to the old House Ethics Committee rules to govern the investigation of Majority Leader Tom DeLay was wholly the work of Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who did not ask for a show of hands from his colleagues.

 The only dissent at Tuesday night's closed-door leadership meeting came from Rep. Deborah Pryce, fourth-ranking in the leadership as House Republican Conference chairman. She suggested that the former rules should be amended in two or three ways. Hastert argued that would mean House floor debates that Democrats would use to repeat accusations against DeLay, who did not comment during the meeting. Pryce in the end agreed to Hastert's course.

 A footnote: A long line of congressional staffers were queued up outside the door of the clerk of the House Tuesday, waiting to get financial records of trips abroad by their bosses. The accusations against DeLay led many other House members to check the records to observe their own financial relationships with lobbyists.


 Republican staffers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned 32 witnesses requested by Democrats in the expanded confirmation procedures for Under Secretary of State John Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations.

 About half of the witnesses were supposed to know something about Bolton's alleged mistreatment of Melody Townsel in 1994, when he was out of government. The other half was connected with Bolton's dispute with U.S. intelligence officers over Cuba's biological weaponry.

 According to sources close to the investigation, nothing of value was obtained from what they called a "rehash" of past accusations against Bolton.


 Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana could find only three other Republican senators willing to co-sponsor a shield law for reporters, thanks to anti-media hostility in GOP ranks. Many expressed a disinclination to do any favors for the press at this time.

 Lugar's bill protecting the news media from testifying before grand juries is co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. The additional Republicans recruited by Lugar were Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

 Republican Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, introducing the House version, also found relatively few co-sponsors -- 11 Democrats and nine Republicans. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt was the only member of the Republican leadership from either house to back the shield law.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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