House Republicans Vote To Gut Office Of Congressional Ethics

Published January 3, 2017
Published January 3, 2017

The GOP has scrapped a plan to take away the Office of Congressional Ethics' power to release public reports and independently forward evidence to prosecutors after a tweet from the president-elect.

Paul Ryan Kevin Mccarthy

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesHouse Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), on the right, and House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), on the left, speak to the media.

Update: House Republicans have scrapped the plan after a series of tweets from the president-elect.

Behind closed doors on Monday night, House Republicans all but demolished the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

GOP House members voted 119-to-74 to rename the OCE the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and place it under the purview of the House Ethics Committee during a Republicans-only meeting to decide the House rules for the 115th Congress, which begins Tuesday.

Under these new changes — which are expected to pass the House-wide vote on Tuesday — the House Ethics Committee has the power to end any OCE probe into Congressional misdeeds. If the OCE, for example, wishes to use a spokesperson, investigate an anonymous tip, or forward evidence of criminal activity to prosecutors, it needs to ask the committee for permission first.

Of course, a Democratic-controlled House created the OCE in 2008 because they believed that the Ethics Committee was failing in its duty to pursue allegations of corruption, thanks to the political influence that House leaders can exercise upon Ethics Committee members.

The original creation of the OCE meant that even if the Ethics Committee chose not to take further action against a member, ordinary citizens could still view a public report of the investigation.

Now, House Speaker Paul Ryan, as well Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, both opposed the new House rules gutting the office, speaking against the change during the meeting, two sources in the room told The Washington Post.

But the House Republicans who feared that the independent OCE could air their dirty laundry won the day, with the measure’s sponsor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, stating it “builds upon and strengthens” the due process rights of House members.

According to The Washington Post, some Republicans were sensitive to the fact that destroying a high-profile ethical reform could be sending the wrong message as Republicans gain back total control in Washington.

For example, President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to “drain the swamp,” has criticized the move to gut the watchdog.

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it … may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare (sic) and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS,” said Trump on Twitter.

Next, find out how the GOP has taken steps to skew all elections in their favor until at least 2020, before seeing why even Glenn Beck said Hillary Clinton was the “moral, ethical choice” for president.

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