The three top Democrats in the House — Representatives Nancy Pelosi of California, Steny Hoyer of Maryland and James E. Clyburn of South Carolina — are all in their late 70s. Mr. Conyers has been the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee — either as chairman or ranking member — for 10 years.

And for many of them, the response to the Conyers imbroglio has been telling. Mr. Conyers has denied all the charges, but under pressure, did relinquish his post. Mr. Clyburn suggested that for all he knew, “all of this could be made up.”

Ms. Pelosi, the minority leader, swiftly called for an ethics investigation last week after news broke that two aides had accused Mr. Conyers of sexual harassment, and that he had paid a settlement to one. But her awkward defense of Mr. Conyers on NBC’s “Meet the Presson Sunday — “Just because someone is accused — and was it one accusation? Is it two? I think there has to be — John Conyers is an icon in our country,” she said — earned scathing reviews.

Melanie Sloan, a respected ethics lawyer in Washington who worked for Mr. Conyers in the mid-1990s, was so incensed that she called Ms. Pelosi’s staff and reminded them that Mr. Conyers had verbally abused her and had once summoned her to his office while he was wearing his underwear. That prompted Ms. Pelosi to switch course again.


Representatives Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, has been pushing in…

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