In an unprecedented announcement, six members of the House Ethics Committee said Friday they were recusing themselves from an investigation into Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), giving no reason for their sudden break from the case, which has been in the works for over three years.
Members stepping away from the case included Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), who chairs the ethics committee. Bonner announced the move in a letter released Friday, noting that his fellow Republicans — Reps. Mike McCaul (R-TX), Mike Conway (R-TX), Charles Dent (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS) — would step aside as well.
The only Democrat to join their recusal was Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the 10-member committee.
Six other House members will be appointed to replace them, according to Politico.
Bonner and his Republican allies on the ethics committee have been accused by ethics watchdogs of grinding the committee’s work to a halt with a focus on partisan infighting, and there’s been whispers about top ethics committee lawyers communicating with the ranking Republican, raising questions of prosecutorial misconduct.
Waters was charged in 2010 with three specific ethics violations after investigators learned that her husband owned stock in a bank that she helped secure federal bailout funds.
While committee members do not talk about ongoing investigations, Friday’s recusals will likely be seen as confirmation of behind-the-scenes misconduct, with Republicans leaving the committee en masse to ensure that the case still proceeds. Bonner’s letter insists this is not the case, saying the recusals “are not based on any indication of any wrongdoing or inappropriate partisanship by members.”
Waters, a strong critic of the nation’s largest banks, is next in line to lead Democrats on the House Financial Services committee, which she would control if Democrats retake the House of Representatives. She’s previously suggested that that President Barack Obama should tax “gangsta” banks “out of business” if they don’t help struggling home owners.