By Jim Tankersley
It didn't take long for Bill Foster to make an impact in Congress.
Foster, a Democratic scientist/businessman, won a special election Saturday to replace retired former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) in the House. He was sworn into his seat representing the exurban 14th Congressional District on Tuesday afternoon. By evening, he was casting what was arguably the deciding vote on a white-hot ethics bill.
The bill, pushed aggressively by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), creates an independent, outside panel to investigate ethics complaints against House members. The House approved it last night, 229-182, with most Democrats in favor and most Republicans opposed. That margin is deceptive: Before final passage, the bill first had to clear a much closer procedural vote, which gave House members a chance to kill the idea without, technically, voting against it.
The bill survived that test by a single vote, with Foster voting in favor.
Only four Republicans joined Foster and 202 other Democrats on that vote. We can't say for sure what Jim Oberweis, the Republican whom Foster beat in the special election, would have done if he were in Congress. But given the party-line nature of the vote, some Democrats on Capitol Hill (who favored the outside panel) are crediting Foster today with the bill's passage.