WASHINGTON — Washington now waits to learn whether Tuesday's election of Thomas Foley as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives will stanch the flow of ethics charges against House members. Some observers think it will, on the grounds that the new Speaker has a reputation of being ethical and that many in Congress seek an end to the accusations that have been worsening a long-fractious atmosphere. But the charges and countercharges may continue for two reasons. One is the political desire of some members of both parties to get even, despite former Speaker Jim Wright's emotional call last week for members to end ``this period of mindless cannabalism.''
The second is the view that ethical wrongdoing ought to be ferreted out and punished, held among others by Republican Whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Wright's original House accuser. Besides Wright, House majority whip Tony Coelho has already resigned under an ethics cloud, and ethics accusations have been leaked against Rep. William Gray III (D) of Pennsylvania, who hotly denies them.
Foley says he hopes his selection ``can be the beginning of the movement of the House back to the business for which the public elected us to serve.'' He says he seeks to ``restore a mood of conciliation, reconciliation, and cooperation between the two parties.''