WASHINGTON - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD), who represents southern Maryland, on Friday commented on Human Rights Day and the findings by the bipartisan Ethics Committee in the matter related to former Representative Mark Foley.
In regards to Human Rights Day, which will be observed on Sunday, December 10, Hoyer said:
"On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, and the world collectively pledged to protect and honor the rights of men, women, and children around the globe. The Declaration states that 'recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.'
"This year's observation of Human Rights Day will focus on a specific kind of dignity - the dignity that comes from being safe from poverty. As one of the world's most eloquent and admired human rights defenders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: 'The curse of poverty has no justification in our age.'
"Dr. King was absolutely right: Poverty has no place in the 21st Century. Poverty is inextricably linked with disease, conflict, and despair, which are tragically prevalent in the lives of far too many people around the world. Poverty and hopelessness also lead to instability and global unrest. Throughout our history, the United States has been a bastion and beacon of human rights, and as we mark this year's Human Rights Day, we must renew our commitment to fight poverty and stand up for human rights around the world."
Hoyer also chastised the Ethics Committee who was investigating the sexual misconduct of former Republican Representative Mark Foley in regards to male teenage Congressional Pages. Although the report found that fellow Republican lawmakers knew about Foley's "interactions with pages or other young male staff members" as far back as 1995 and chose to do nothing about it, the committee recommended no punishments. Since the report was released on the last day of the Congress, no reform of the page program can be undertaken until the new Congress convenes in 2007.
Hoyer had this to say:
I appreciate and respect the hard work and judgment of the bipartisan Ethics Committee in the matter related to former Representative Mark Foley. The Members, officers and staff who work in this institution have an absolute duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the youths who come here from around the country to participate in the House Page Program.
It is regrettable that the Ethics Committee did not fulfill its responsibilities with the same level of vigilance throughout this 109th Congress.
In the new Democratically-controlled Congress, which convenes in January, we will and we must restore vitality to our ethics process and ensure public confidence in this institution.