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House ethics panel ends impasse; DeLay investigation now possible

WASHINGTON -- 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. Chairman Doc Hastings, Republican of Washington, and senior Democrat Alan Mollohan of West Virginia negotiated the agreement. The key part of the deal would allow the two leaders' personal staff aides to be their liaisons to the committee's nonpartisan professional staff, but have no managerial responsibilities.

For months, the two leaders had argued over the role of Hastings's key aide, Ed Cassidy, his congressional chief of staff.

Under the agreement, the two aides could not even convey policy directives to the professional staff without the approval of the two leaders.

''We are pleased to resolve this issue and are committed to standing up for the committee, with a full complement of professional nonpartisan staff as soon as possible," said a joint statement by the two leaders. ''It is our intent to establish a committee and process that reflect credibly on the House, its members, and the public they serve."

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