House Ethics Committee

Resolves Staffing Dispute

Leaders of the House ethics committee broke through a months-long stalemate over staffing last night, making it possible to investigate Majority Leader Tom DeLay and conduct other business.

The evenly divided committee, which investigates member misconduct, has been shut down all year by partisan bickering. The logjam was broken about 10:15 by Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.), the committee's ranking Democrat.

The latest dispute was over the powers allotted to Hastings's chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, who will work part time for the committee but not be part of the investigative staff. The two leaders swapped proposals for several hours last night before agreeing on Cassidy's role.

With the agreement, the committee can now take advantage of extra funds it was allotted this year to hire additional investigative staff, including a chief counsel who also would serve as staff director.

Hastings and Mollohan issued a joint statement saying that they plan to hire a "non-partisan staff as soon as possible." They said they want "to establish a committee and process that reflect credibly on the House."

Health Bills Address

Technology, Quality of Care

A quartet of influential senators introduced a pair of health care bills that would promote development of health information technology and link Medicare payments to quality of care.

Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), the chairman and senior Democrat on the health committee, focused on health technology. Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (Mont.), the chairman and senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, worked on the quality-of-care bill.

The health information technology legislation aims to create a public-private partnership to promote development of electronic medical records and computerized prescribing. Computerization could make the system more efficient and warn of potential medical errors, supporters said.

EPA Sets New Standards

For Diesel-Powered Equipment

One of the last major unregulated sources of diesel pollution -- electrical generators, compressors, agricultural pumps and other equipment powered by nonmoving diesel machines -- would run up to 90 percent cleaner under proposed federal rules.

The Environmental Protection Agency described yesterday how it plans to require cleaner-burning diesel engines for use in stationary equipment and have engine owners switch to lower-sulfur fuel.

The changes were proposed in accordance with a court settlement with the advocacy group Environmental Defense, whose 2003 federal lawsuit in California argued the federal standards were long overdue. The EPA's first proposal, in 1979, was never finished.

The EPA agreed to put its newest proposal into effect one year from now.

-- From News Services