Not entirely shameless

It turns out I was wrong to say yesterday that the House Republicans had no sense of shame at all. It turns out they do, at least a vestigial one, or perhaps it’s a strategic sense instead. (Someone once defined “conscience” as ” the still, small voice that tells you someone might be watching.”)

For whatever reason, and on instructions from Mr. DeLay itself, they backed off both on allowing indicted members to serve in leadership positions and on eliminating the catch-all “conduct reflecting discredit on the House” charge from Ethics Committee’s jurisdiction.

That they have had to partially back off is good news. The acutual changes may not be. The willingness of the press to report the partial backing-off as if it were total is depressing, though not surprising.

I’m afraid that the decision on indicted leaders means that DeLay is now convinced that he has the fix in with the Texas Legislature to get Ronnie Earle off his back. Restoring the “conduct unbecoming” rule won’t much matter if the Ethics Committee is stocked with DeLay loyalists on the Republican side and the rules are changed so that a tie vote kills an investigation. Those two changes are still very much on the agenda, but they have to be voted on by the full House.

That will put Republicans from blue districts in an awful bind, or at least it will if we can keep the pressure on until the vote next week.

My prediction: the changes will pass by one vote, or they will be withdrawn when it’s clear the votes aren’t there. The chance of beating these changes back, or if that’s impossible making them as expensive as possible for the scoundrels pushing them, is not one to be passed up.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: