More on GOP ethics changes

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Carl Hulse gets a front-page placement in the New York Times again with his coverage of the GOP ethics moves. Here are some excerpts:

House Republicans pushed through a significant change in the handling of ethics complaints over strong Democratic objections Tuesday as the 109th Congress convened with a burst of pomp and partisanship.

The House, on a vote of 220 to 195, enacted a change that would effectively dismiss a complaint in the event of a deadlock in the ethics committee, which is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Its approval came after a retreat by Republicans on Monday on other proposed ethics revisions.

At the heart of both actions were calculations about how far Republicans should go to protect the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay. Many party members were unhappy with the ethics committee for the three admonishments it delivered to Mr. DeLay last year.

At the same time, some Republicans were uncomfortable retaining a party rule adopted in November that was intended to shield Mr. DeLay from having to step down from his leadership post if he was indicted in a campaign finance investigation in Texas. Republicans said the new approach to handling a deadlock on the ethics panel would protect lawmakers from purely partisan attacks.

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Republican lawmakers and senior aides said rising unease among rank-and-file Republicans over last November's rule change, which would have allowed party leaders to hold their post even if indicted, led Mr. DeLay to ask for its reversal.

The lawmakers and other officials said many House members were struggling with second thoughts after voting to protect Mr. DeLay, spurred by criticism from constituents. Several said they were ready to reject the ethics rules package as a potential major embarrassment on a day when Republicans hoped to showcase their continuing majority.