Young Out in GOP Housecleaning
By Ben Pershing
Amid the intense focus on two Democrats with ethics problems, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.), the GOP took a quiet step toward putting its own house in order Wednesday by pushing Rep. Don Young (Alaska) out of a key committee post.
Young was the top Republican on the Natural Resources Committee and has been either the chairman or ranking member of either that panel or the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee since 1994. But that streak came to an end yesterday, when Young bowed out of the running for the top Resources post in the 111th Congress. Though he nominally stepped down of his own volition, Young got a solid push from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was opposed to the Alaskan's keeping the job and made sure Young knew that.
Young is under federal investigation on on multiple fronts, including his relationship with the oil services company VECO, part of the same probe that led to the October conviction of Sen. Ted Stevens (R). Alaska voters decided to give Stevens the boot on Election Day but -- surprisingly -- reelected Young to his 18th term in the House. That won him the prized cover photo of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's "Most Embarrassing Reelected Members of Congress" report.
But just because Alaskans seem to want Young to keep his job doesn't mean his Republican colleagues feel the same way. GOP leaders have been intensifying their efforts to paint the Democratic majority as corrupt, with a months-long focus on Rangel now supplemented by the Blagojevich scandal. That effort has been somewhat complicated by the fact that Republicans are dealing with some ongoing scandals of their own. How, for example, could they plausibly call for Rangel (who faces an ethics committee probe but no federal investigation that we know of) to step down from his Ways and Means chairmanship if Young was allowed to remain in his committee post?
Boehner and his fellow leaders pushed Young out the door Wednesday, and most of the other Republicans currently in ethical trouble either lost (Rep. Tom Feeney) or are retiring (Reps. Rick Renzi, John Doolittle and Jerry Weller). In addition to Young, a few other returning Republicans, including Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (Calif.), appear to be under federal investigation. So it may not be possible for the GOP to clear its ethical decks completely, but throwing Young overboard was a definite start.
December 11, 2008; 1:00 PM ET
Categories: Ethics and Rules , GOP Leaders , House
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