Republican members of the House Ethics Committee Tuesday called on Democratic leaders to hold public trials probing the alleged misdeeds of Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) "prior to the November election."
It's rare to see fissures, let alone public statements, drawn along party lines from members of the Ethics panel.
Rangel and Waters have expressed dismay that the Ethics Committee could punt the trials until November. Both have requested public forums to clear their names.
Rangel is accused of tax and financial irregularities. Ethics investigators allege Waters used her position to boost a bank on which her husband held stock.The letter, addressed to Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), accused Democrats of stonewalling.
"Members of the committee have repeatedly expressed their willingness and desire to move forward with public trials of these matters and have repeatedly made themselves available to the chairwoman for October settings," the Republicans wrote.
Republicans who signed the missive included Reps. Jo Bonner (R-AL), Michael Conaway (R-TX) Charlie Dent (R-PA),Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Mike McCaul (R-TX).
Meantime, Democrats are hopping mad over the letter. "This is a load of garbage," said one Democratic House aide who has familiarity with the ethics process. "There was no consultation with us. We've been trying for two days to get them to agree on a hearing. This is strictly a political move without merit. Instead, they go running for the nearest reporter."
In the letter, Republicans specifically called out House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for indicating that the schedule of the trials is "up to Joe Bonner, the Republican, and Zoe Lofgren, the Democrat" and accused the panel of suffering from "their own scheduling problems."
Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant responded that "Leader Hoyer has made it clear that the Ethics Committee should do its work and he has faith in Chairwoman Lofgren and Ranking Member Bonner along with their four Republican and four Democratic committee colleagues, will do just that working together in a bipartisan way."
The offices of both Rangel and Waters declined comment on the GOP action. However, Rangel told Fox News last week that it was "unfair for them not to (hold an ethics trial) before the election."