WASHINGTON - The House Ethics committee opened an investigation Thursday into the chain of events leading to the explosive page scandal that has rocked the Capitol for a week.
The Republican and Democratic leaders of the committee told reporters they will subpoena documents and witnesses if necessary to determine how House members and employees handled information they received about correspondence between former Florida Congressman Mark Foley and a former page.
They said they also would try to determine whether there were any other inappropriate actions by other House officials with teen pages.
“Simply put, the American people and especially the parents of all current and former pages are entitled to know how this situation was handled - and we are determined to answer their questions,” said committee chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
Rep. Howard Berman, of California, the top Democrat on the panel, said, “we are looking at weeks, not months” to conduct the investigation.
Hastings and Berman are heading a subcommittee that includes one other Republican and Democrat that will do the investigative work. That subcommittee began meeting Thursday and authorized 48 subpoenas for documents and testimony.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, a member of the full ethics committee, attended the meeting Thursday morning that set the scope of the probe.
Cole said in an interview there was no partisan bickering among the five Republicans and five Democrats on the panel.
“The last thing anybody wants to do - or wants to appear to do - is score partisan political points,” Cole said. “I think this is going to be a real broad and thorough look at the page system, and the chips will fall where they may.”
Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert held a news conference in his Illinois district Thursday, saying he was “sorry that this happened.”
“The bottom line is, I am taking responsibility for it because ultimately the buck stops here,” the speaker said.