I suspect this was a formality, but it's still nice to see it happen.
The House ethics committee decided Tuesday to proceed with its own investigation into allegations filed against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay by Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston.
In a ruling that does not address the substance of Bell's charges that DeLay engaged in extortion, bribery and abuse of power, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said the complaint was filed properly and warrants a look.
The decision "in no way addresses, or constitutes a determination on the substance of any of the allegations," said Committee Chairman Joel Heffley, R-Colo., and ranking Democrat Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia.
Their announcement sets in motion a series of steps that could take months before a decision on whether the Republican leader from Sugar Land violated House rules. The panel could have held off until a related criminal investigation in Texas runs its course, and may still do so.
However some Republicans, including Rep. John Culberson of Houston, will press ahead today with an effort to disqualify Bell's complaint, arguing that he should not have the right to file ethics charges because he is a lame-duck congressman and has no stake in the House's future.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., privately has expressed his opposition to an effort by Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., Culberson and others, to disqualify Bell from filing the ethics complaint. LaHood said he will propose today a ban on lame-duck lawmakers filing ethics complaints, and have it apply to Bell to bring a quick end to the DeLay case.