WASHINGTON (AP) - The House voted 390-8 Thursday to shut down a prized perk - its members' bank - following disclosure that lawmakers, including Speaker Thomas Foley, wrote rubber checks.
The resolution also ordered an ethics committee investigation of whether House members "routinely and repeatedly" wrote checks knowing they had insufficient funds.
House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., said the investigation would concentrate not on occasional rubber check writers but look for habitual abuse "that could lead to disciplinary action against members" or House employees.
Gephardt also admitted that three of his checks, totaling $216.28, were submitted to the bank when he had insufficient funds.
The resolution ordered closure of the bank, run by the sergeant at arms' office.
On another embarrassing matter, Foley said current and former members who are delinquent in clearing their tabs at the House restaurant should be forced to pay up.
But he said a suggestion to post the names of such members is "an extraordinary thing I'm not ready to endorse. " Foley said that he, too, had bounced a check.
Last Dec. 27, he said, he wrote a $540 check for a compact disc player and an audio receiver without knowing he did not have sufficient funds.
And, Rep. Mickey Edwards, who has been ducking questions this week of whether he had bounced checks at the House bank, said Thursday that he had not written any bad checks "so far as I know" but would pay a penalty if he had.
"So far as I know, I have never bounced a check since I have been a member of Congress," Edwards, R-Oklahoma City, said in a prepared statement.
"I have never been informed by the House bank that any of my checks has bounced. But if they have been, without my knowledge, or if my checks have been covered by the bank, when I did not have sufficient funds in my account to cover a check, then I am prepared to pay any penalty which I would have been charged if my account had been with a commercial bank, and every member of Congress should do the same. " Edwards' spokesman, Craig Veith, said Edwards had asked the House sergeant at arms for a letter telling him if he had bounced any checks.
Edwards was the last of six House members from Oklahoma to address the issue. Until Thursday, Veith was telling reporters that Edwards' office was not talking about it.
Democratic Reps. Mike Synar, D-Muskogee, and Dave McCurdy, D-Norman, asked for letters and have since said they did not bounce checks. Reps. Glenn English, D-Cordell, Bill Brewster, D-Marietta, and Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said when first contacted that they had never bounced checks at the House bank.
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