The only House member to vote against investigating what Democratic leaders knew about Eric Massa's alleged improprieties says he did so because such an investigation would only distract from important issues facing the country.
"Let me guess, you're calling to ask me about the unemployment," Rep. Chakah Fattah (D-PA) said when reached by phone this afternoon. "You're calling to ask me about Afghanistan."
Fattah is not alone in his sentiments: Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) fulminated in a speech on the House floor Tuesday night that the national press corps is "despicable" for covering Massa instead of a non-binding resolution on withdrawal from Afghanistan.
"I thought that it was another distraction from the major issues of the day," Fattah said of House Minority Leader John Boehner's bill calling for an investigation of what Democratic leaders knew about Massa, when they knew it, and how they responded.
"We've got millions unemployed, we've got a historic vote coming up on health care reform, which, as you know, we've only been working on as a country for about a hundred years... and I thought this was a distraction at best," Fattah said.
The House voted 402 to 1 to refer Boehner's bill to the House ethics committee. This essentially tabled the measure; the House did not approve the bill as a recommendation for the committee, it simply sent the legislation to the ethics panel for further consideration there.
Fattah was the lone member to vote against it; 15 other members, some on the ethics committee, voted "present," and 12 did not vote.
Investigating Democratic leaders simply "creates that opportunity" for headlines about Democratic leaders being investigated, Fattah said, calling it a distraction for which "there's no reason for the most powerful lawmaking body in the world" to be engaged in.
A former member of the ethics committee himself, Fattah said that it has "always been the practice that...we would not take newspaper clippings, and use that as the basis for referral."
Asked whether he thinks the committee will indeed follow Boehner's advice and launch an investigation, Fattah said, "I'm much more interested in the fact that we had a decrease in the unemployment claims this morning."