The House ethics committee held closed-door deliberations Thursday on how to handle allegations of improper conduct against House Speaker Jim Wright as Republicans set their political sights on the Texas Democrat.
The panel started reviewing a voluminous report by its independent counsel, Richard J. Phelan, who has been investigating Wright for nearly nine months. The meetings are expected to extend into next week.The six Democrats and six Republicans are expected to decide by next week whether Wright violated House rules by abusing his office for financial gain, as alleged, and if so whether to punish him.
Whatever the outcome, Republicans already were laying plans to make political hay of Wright's problems in the 1990 elections. Edward Rollins, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said his organization will make sure Wright has a well-financed opponent next year.
"I'm going to make a lot of Democrats stand up and defend Jim Wright," Rollins said Wednesday. "I'm going to give him the run of his life."
Wright reacted strongly to Rollins' threat, suggesting that congressional Democrats would be less inclined to cooperate with President Bush on budget and other matters if political attacks persist.
"You can't have it both ways, obviously," Wright told reporters. "Rollins confirms . . . what I have known all along - that the whole motivation of the inquiry was from its inception partisan."