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Pelosi promises integrity, civility

“We’ll turn the most closed and corrupt Congress into the most open and honest Congress,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told The Associated Press in an interview.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Relishing the prospects of a triumph, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday promised to restore integrity and civility to the House if voters put her party in control this fall.

“We’ll turn the most closed and corrupt Congress into the most open and honest Congress,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told The Associated Press in an interview.

She spoke five weeks before the midterm elections as the House ethics committee opened an investigation into an unfolding sex scandal that led to Rep. Mark Foley’s resignation and calls for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to step down.

“The only way you can make the change that needs to be made for our country — a new direction where we’re there for the many and not the few — is to drain the swamp,” said Pelosi, who is in line to be the nation’s first female House speaker if Democrats ascend to power.

With Nov. 7 looming, an AP-Ipsos poll released Thursday found the majority of likely voters favoring Democrats to win control of the House and half of likely voters saying recent disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress will be very or extremely important when they cast their vote.

Republicans are scrambling to try to stop the political bleeding that began last week when Foley resigned amid reports that he sent sexually explicit communications to teenage boys who once worked as House pages. That set off finger-pointing among House Republican leaders who were accused of failing to react quickly when they were warned of Foley’s behavior.

Hastert spurned calls for his resignation from the party’s conservative base while some Republicans expressed fears that the scandal could cost the GOP the House.

In Idaho, Republican Rep. Mike Simpson said he was no longer confident that Republicans would retain power, a shift from a week ago when he was “fairly confident we were going to keep the majority.” Now, he said, it’s “a real tossup.”

Republicans outside of Washington, meanwhile, chastised Democrats for criticizing House leaders while ignoring what Republicans called a long and tawdry history of Democratic impropriety and sex scandals.

“What we don’t have to do is allow our friends on the left to lecture us on morality,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said at a party fundraiser in South Carolina. “There’s a certain stench of hypocrisy.”

On Capitol Hill, Pelosi expressed confidence that Democrats would gain the 15 seats they need to seize control of the House from Republicans who have ruled for a dozen years.

Should Democrats win, she promised they would approve rules to “break the link between lobbyists and legislation” and enact legislation adopting all the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The party’s agenda also includes raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour and cutting the student loan interest rate.

The Foley scandal, Pelosi said, cuts to the heart of Democrats’ argument that a change in power is needed and resonates with voting groups that will be crucial to who wins on Nov. 7 — senior citizens and women.

“This is an issue, though, that just highlights so clearly the fact that they don’t play by the rules,” Pelosi said, questioning why Republican leaders did not notify the bipartisan committee that oversees the page program when questions about Foley’s behavior first arose.

“You would think if you knew of something like this, your best defense is to inform the Democrat on the committee,” Pelosi said. “But they just don’t see it that way.”

“What could have been going through their heads, where they have an over-50-year-old man making these overtures to a kid” who was under the responsibility of Congress, Pelosi asked. “They chose not to address it.”