The House of Representatives is about to lose a valued perk: its own special bank in which members may write checks (rubber or otherwise) on their own accounts and cash checks (rubber or otherwise) on out-of-town banks. Two years ago, shortly after Thomas Foley became speaker, the General Accounting Office reported that the bank was routinely covering bad checks at no charge to members. Mr. Foley subsequently ordered the practice stopped. It wasn't.
Last week, the GAO issued another report. The practice of House members writing bad checks had gotten worse. Speaker Foley again ordered the practice stopped. Yesterday, he went even further: He shut down the bank as of the end of this year and told the House ethics committee to investigate lawmakers who abused its lenient practices. Yet Speaker Foley still doesn't want to release the names of the check-bouncers. He implied he might not even allow the bank to give non-check-bouncers a letter attesting to their innocence.
Some congressmen are outraged -- at outside criticism of the bank's practices. Rep. Barney Frank said, "I don't think it's any big deal at all. I think it says more about the mind set of the press." Colleagues seem to agree, including GOP leader Bob Michel and some who are ready critics of shoddy practices elsewhere in government.