WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 -- The House voted 395-28 to reprimand Speaker Newt Gingrich and fine him $300,000 for his admitted breaking of chamber ethics rules. The House accepted the recommendation by the ethics committee last week, closing its 2-year-old probe of Gingrich and, many hope, the partisan acrimony that has kept the chamber in turmoil for months.
That was essentially a plea bargain, with the speaker admitting he discredited the House after the panel slightly softened its charges. Nonetheless, it was a stinging repudiation for Gingrich, who two years ago engineered the GOP takeover of Congress. And the fine is the largest financial penalty ever imposed on a speaker. Some 195 Republicans joined 198 Democrats and two Independents to accept the penalties. Twenty-six Republicans and two Democrats opposed the penalty. Five Democrats voted 'present,' with five Republicans and two Democrats not voting. Even Republicans agree the affair has left the bombastic Georgia Republican humbled and wounded, although they publicly reject suggestions the damage to Gingrich as speaker is fatal. Gingrich did not address his colleagues and remained out of sight for most of the day. Ethics committee chairwoman Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., says the vote demonstrates 'nobody is above the rules of the House of Representatives.' The panel found Gingrich used tax-exempt organizations to pay for a college course he taught and other activities with a 'substantial partisan political aspects.' It also found Gingrich misled the panel. The speaker insists the violations were unintentional. ---
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