Rep. Louise M. Slaughter was all set Wednesday to unveil a series of reforms aimed at restoring ethics and order to the House of Representatives but because of Cindy Sheehan, disorder reigned instead.
Sheehan and a group of about two dozen Iraq War protesters interrupted a news conference where Slaughter, D-Fairport, planned to introduce the new Democratic majority's plans for preventing corruption and making the House run better.
The protest forced a 45-minute delay in the Democrats' unveiling of their plan to ban gifts from lobbyists and lobbyist-funded travel, while requiring full disclosure of pork-barrel spending measures and ethics training for all House employees.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, spoke briefly at the start of the news conference, but he stopped speaking shortly after Sheehan and others began chanting, "De-escalate, investigate, troops out now!"
They continued their chant for several minutes until Emanuel, Slaughter and other House Democratic leaders turned and walked away from the microphones set up in a hallway of a House office building.
"I was a little perplexed about why they were protesting us," said Slaughter, who will be chairwoman of the powerful House Rules Committee in the new Congress.
Slaughter had been one of the first and fiercest critics of the Iraq War, as was incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Asked why the protesters interrupted the Democrats' news conference, Sheehan the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq said: "They need to include the grass roots. They need to discuss the oversight issue. They need to investigate the crimes that got us into the war."
Slaughter, Emanuel and incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., returned to discuss ethics reform after the protesters and some of the reporters had left.
"The reforms we announce today will restore integrity, openness and honesty to Congress and will hand the keys of government back to the American people," said Slaughter, the Democratic point person on the ethics issue for the past year. "Serving in the House is a privilege. It's time members of Congress started acting that way."
The House is scheduled to vote on the rules changes today.