We congratulate U.S. Sen. James Lankford on being named chairman of the U.S. Ethics Committee, although we might also offer our condolences.
The six-member committee controlled by the majority party investigates complaints against senators, which can be anything from disorderly behavior to criminal acts. It has authority to recommend anything from censure to expulsion to the full Senate.
In practice, the committee hasn’t acted in two years, when it admonished New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez for activities that resulted in federal corruption charges. A subsequent criminal trial resulted in a hung jury and the charges against Menedez were dropped. About that same time, the committee also opened an investigation into then-Sen. Al Franken, who later resigned in the face of allegations of sexual misconduct and unwanted touching.
We found reporting in The Hill concerning Lankford’s new post entertaining and revealing.
Lankford’s fellow Oklahoman, Sen. Jim Inhofe, told reporter Greg Nash that he’d “rather have root canal” than be the Ethics chairman.
Sen. Pat Roberts also said he wasn’t interested in the job.
“I’ve been on the damn committee for now, what, 22 years? It’s a Senate record,” Roberts said. “Everybody else gets on and gets off, and they won’t let me get off.”
As Capitol Hill sources of power and influence go, the Senate Ethics Committee isn’t much, but we respect Lankford for being willing to take on the task.
In a fractious time in U.S. politics, Lankford’s strength of character is obviously respected by his peers. Being the Senate guardian is a thankless task, one sure to bring Lankford unwarranted criticism from just about everyone, but we feel sure he will do the job with honor and humility, which is all anyone can ask.