Proposed new codes of ethics were cleared yesterday by both the House Rules Committee and the Senate Special Committee on Official Conduct.
Floor action in both the House and Senate is scheduled for next week. Approval by the two committees virtually assures adoption by Congress of a new and tougher ethics code.
The House and Senate versions are similar. The House code was written by a 16-member commission headed by Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and made up of House members and prominent citizens. The Senate version, using the Obey commission work as a base, was drafted by a special Senate committee headed by Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.).
Acceptance of the recent 29 per cent congressional pay increase put pressure on both houses to strengthen existing congressional ethics codes, particularly to limit outside income, still the most controversial feature of both proposals.
Democrats on the House Rules Committee fell in line behind the leadership despite vigorous protests by many Rules Committee members against a 15 per cent limit on outside earned income.
Most of the five Republicans on the committee and a half dozen of the 11 Democrats spoke out against the 15 per cent limit, but in the end of the Democrats voted unanimously to report out the proposals under the procedure that House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill and the Obey commission wanted. The vote was 11-5.
"O'Neill didn't just twist arms, he broke them," one staff member said of the pressure brought to bear on the Rules Committee Democrats.
Under the procedure adopted by the Rules Committee, when the measure in brought to the House floor members will be allowed to reject or accept each of the seven major proposals, but only one major substantive amendment will be allowed. That amendment would allow a $15,000-a-year limit on outside earned income rather that the 15 per cent which with new congressional salaries of $57,500 would amount to about $8,000 a yaer.
Those opposed to any limit on earned income tried to knock out allowing that amendment, since allowing it will make it harder to defeat the earned income limit on the floor.
"It's obvious this is a sweetener to prevent ddefeat" of the earned income limit, Rep. John Anderson (R-Ill.) joining seven Democrats to cause the tie.
"I'm on public record at home now because Congress has received such a munificent pay raise of being willing to accept an earned income limit," Anderson said. He said he thought $15,000 a "more reasonable figure," but doubted it would pass on the floor.
Republicans also spoke out against allowing a $5,000 increase in the official taxpayer-funded allowances in return for abolishing unofficial allowances funded by private contributions. But only two of the five Republicans, Anderson and Rep. Del Latta of Ohio, voted for allowing a vote on the increase on the floor. The vote was 14 to 2. The Senate measure abolishes the "slush funds" but does not propose an increase in official funds.
In the House, the key vote will come on the question of whether to allow more amendments to the proposal, and Obey said yesterday, "A vote against that rule will be a vote in favor of allowing congressional ethics to become unraveled or 'Christmas treed' to death."
Both the House and Senate versions require fuller financial disclosure an end ot lame-duck travel, the 15 per cent limit on outside earned income, a prohibition on gifts over $100, a tightening of the franking priviledge and a limit on honorable of $1,000 per speech.
The Senate committee plan, which was approved 15 to 0, would also require a complete han on the pratice of all professions, such as law, medicine and so forth, even within the 15 per cent limit.
The House Rules Committee yesterday also dropped a section setting up another committee to codify in law the ethics code, but promised to set up the committee later.