House Democratic leaders decided yesterday to pull back an ethics and financial disclosure bill scheduled for floor action today because it faced an uncertain fate and possible dismantling by House members tired of "reform."
Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) said that the bill itself was not in trouble, but that over 100 amendments were pending and he was sending it back to committee to straighten out some of the problems.
Other members, however, while agreeing that the bill would not have been rejected, said the outlook was "foggy" on retaining a key portion of the new ethics code the House passed last year at O'Neill's urging. That section imposed a limit of $8,625 on a House member's earned imcome beyound the $57,500 salary.
Although the income limit was not a part of the bill the House was to take up today, the Rules Committee had opened the way for a vote on repealing it.
Rep. Richard Preyer (D-N.C.), chairman of the Select Ethics Committee, said the delay would "give us a chance to do some more missionary work" on the bill.
The bill deals with financial disclosure for members of the legislative, executive and judicial branches and sets civil and criminal penalties for falsifying disclosure statements.
The ethics code adopted last year required house members to file financial disclosure statements. The first statement is due this Sunday, but Rep. Bernard Sisk (D-Calif.) introduced a resolution yesterday seeking a postponement until June 30. The Rules Committee and the House would have to act on it this week for it to become effective. Sisk wants the postponement because, when the ethics bill finally reaches the floor, he wants to drop the requirement that members list the monetary value of their holdings.
Let the actual amount involved be recorded in a confidential folder, Sisk said, because public disclosure would subject members or their children to the risk of violence. "Its unbelievable to think that people want every member of Congress to be the victims of terrorists and kidnappers," Sisk said.
"There's a tremendous amount of emotionalism coursing through these halls," one source said of the ethics legislation.