House Republicans Reverse Plans To Dismantle Office of Congressional Ethics
UPDATE 1/3/2017 1:23 P.M. EST
After much pushback from House Democrats and the general public, House Republicans have decided not to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics, The New York Times reports. The vote to approve the move came 24 hours earlier when they overhauled the decision bypass Speaker Paul Ryan and OCE creator Nancy Pelosi. President-Elect Donald Trump also called out the Republicans for misplacing their priorities.
Draining the swamp is looking to be tough feat for President-Elect Donald Trump when on Monday evening (Jan. 2), House Republicans voted to crush the Office of Congressional Ethics without any warning.
The New York Times reports Representative Robert Goodlatte, (R-Va) mentioned the move after hours, claiming the office was too aggressive in their investigations against lawmakers. The office was set up in 2008 after several Congress members were sent to jail over conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering charges. Republicans have taken over both houses and with some assistance from the president-elect, plan to overturn laws around healthcare, immigration reform and reproductive rights.
To replace the Independent Ethics Office, a Congressional Complaint Review would take form. Complaints would then make their way to the House Ethics Committee. If it sounds like lawmakers investigating other politicians, well you hit the nail on the head. Independent no more, the Office of Congressional Complaint Review would no longer take anonymous tips. They would also enforce rules that “better safeguard the exercise of due process rights of both subject and witness,”
In a statement about the move, Goodlatte claims the ethics office will continue the same work. “The amendment builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics,” he said. “It also improves upon due process rights for individuals under investigation, as well as witnesses called to testify. The OCE has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work.”
Many members of Congress aren’t on board with the abridgment of the committee, including Speaker Paul Ryan, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi, the creator of the OCE.
“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House G.O.P. has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress. If the 115th Congress begins with rules amendments undermining O.C.E., it is setting itself up to be dogged by scandals and ethics issues for years and is returning the House to dark days when ethics violations were rampant and far too often tolerated.”
Other political figures and pundits weighed in on the issue, including Trump who condemned the actions of the House Republicans.
With accountability on the line yet again in Congress, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is hoping his party will continue keep Trump privy to his own promise of making “America Great Again.”
“We will be a caucus that works to make sure the President-elect keeps his commitment to truly make America great, in its finest sense and tradition,” Schumer said. “We will hold Trump accountable to the values that truly make America great. But we’ll fight him tooth and nail when he appeals to the baser instincts that diminish America and its greatness — instincts that too often have plagued this country and his campaign.”