House Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs one fewer vote to pass a health care bill thanks to the resignation yesterday of GOP Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia. His departure next week will take sitting House members down to 431, meaning the magic number to pass health care drops to 216.
Why did Mr. Deal make it easier for Democrats to reshape one-sixth of the nation’s economy? He claims he wants to devote full time to the Georgia governor’s race, where he is currently running even with former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. But that explanation strikes many as bizarre. Only three months ago Mr. Deal was highly critical of Ms. Handel for resigning her own state post, saying: “Nathan Deal has taken an oath to serve the people of Georgia and has a clear record of completing his terms.”
Here’s another explanation. By stepping down now, the nine-term incumbent effectively ends a House Ethics Committee probe of his business dealings involving a state contract in Georgia to salvage autos. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year that Rep. Deal and a business partner secured the contract without competing against other bidders. Later, Mr. Deal intervened with state officials to block proposed changes in the contract. By leaving office, Mr. Deal shuts down the Ethics Committee probe because it no longer has jurisdiction over him.
Mr. Deal says any insinuation that his resignation is related to the ethics probe is “absolutely not true.” Rep. Phil Gingrey, a fellow Republican who represents a neighboring district, says Mr. Deal is “putting the people of Georgia first” by devoting full time to his gubernatorial campaign. How it benefits the people of Georgia now to pay for a special election to fill Mr. Deal’s seat is unclear. Ditto the heightened possibility that Ms. Pelosi will be able to jam a liberal health care plan through the House.
‘John Fund is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal’