Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor tonight in support of a landmark ethics reform bill establishing an outside, independent Office of Congressional Ethics. The resolution passed by a vote of 229 to 182. Below are the Speaker's remarks, as prepared:
'Mr. Speaker, today, the New Direction Congress takes another step forward in ethics reform by making Congress more open and more accountable to the American people. By doing so, we continue to strengthen Americans' faith in the institution of Congress.
'Since the Ethics Committee was first constituted in 1967, the House has set increasingly higher standards of conduct to guide Members because public office is a public trust.
'Just last year, on the first day of the New Direction Congress, the House implemented new and sweeping changes to the gift and travel restrictions.
'Last September, we also passed the historic Honest Leadership and Open Government Act--historic lobby reform that is now the law of the land.
'Today, the New Direction Congress will--for the first time--open the ethics process up to the participation of our fellow citizens, which will make this institution more accountable to the American people. I welcome their assistance.
'I commend Mr. Capuano and all of the Members of the Task Force for their service to the House. Congressman Capuano led this effort in a way that was bipartisan and sensitive to this institution's history and traditions. The resulting legislation will greatly improve the ethics process.
'As someone who served on the Ethics Committee for six years, I have a full understanding of the burdens its Members bear. I also have a deep respect for those who have served on the Committee, both past and present. The recommendations before the House will only serve to assist them in their efforts.
'Adopting the Capuano Task force recommendations will provide the public--and the House--with the assurance that credible allegations of wrongdoing will be addressed by the Ethics Committee in a timely manner. It will also bring an additional measure of transparency to the ethics enforcement process.
'It creates this transparency without compromising the House's constitutional prerogative to discipline its Members, without interfering with the work of the Ethics Committee, and without altering the substantive rules governing the conduct of the Committee's deliberations.
'I fully recognize that bringing non-Members into the enforcement mechanism is not just a step forward, but also a significant departure from the traditions of the House. To those who have concerns, I pledge that I will work closely with the Republican Leader to ensure that we jointly appoint to the new Office of Congressional Ethics intelligent and honest men and women who understand the importance of non-partisan behavior and the compelling need to act fairly to protect the interests of the public, the House, and its Members.
'Finally, Mr. Speaker, I pledge that the House Leadership will closely monitor the work of the new Office of Congressional Ethics and continually review all reasonable proposals intended to guarantee the highest ethical conduct and a more effective and transparent ethics process. If additional changes are required, we will propose them.
'The panel proposed today is a reasonable step forward, which is why it has the support of leading reform groups, including Common Cause and U.S. PIRG. It responds to the needs of the House and the demands of public. It will restore confidence in our ability to carry out our constitutional duty to discipline ourselves and increase respect for the legislation that we produce. I urge its adoption.'