HOUSE REPUBLICANS MOVE TO WEAKEN ETHICS COMMITTEE: Panel chief may lose post for allowing criticism of DeLay WASHINGTON - In the wake of back-to-back ethics slaps at House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Republicans are preparing to make it more difficult to begin ethics investigations and could remove the Republican chairman who presided over the admonishments delivered to DeLay last fall. A House leadership aide said that a package of rules changes to be presented to the House when the 109th Congress convenes Tuesday could include a plan that would require a majority vote of the ethics panel to pursue an investigation. At present, a deadlock on the panel, which is evenly split between the two parties, keeps the case pending. The possible change, the aide said, would mean that a tie vote would effectively dismiss the case. The aide said the change would instill more bipartisanship in ethics cases by requiring that members of both parties support inquiries. But Democrats and outside groups said the proposal would dilute an already weak ethics process. It remained uncertain whether panel chief Rep. Joel Hefley of Colorado would stay in that post. A spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert said no decision had been made. Many Republicans expressed dissatisfaction with Hefley after the reports critical of DeLay, R-Sugar Land, were issued, saying he had allowed Democrats to score political points against the majority leader for conduct that did not merit such scrutiny. The potential for change in the chairmanship has drawn fire from Democrats and ethics watchdogs. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/12/30/MNG24AINRP1.DTL The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas Legislators are being asked to find a way to remove the power of Austin DA Ronny Earle (who has successfully prosecuted a number of democrat politicians) to handle the ongoing investigation of DeLay's involvment in an influence-peddling scheme. I think DeLay is starting to sweat. He's calling all his favors in.