House Republicans Move to Gut Ethics Panel


capitalHouse Republicans moved to effectively gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics on Monday night. The rule change was approved 119-74 in the conference. The complete rules package will now be voted on tomorrow, during the new Congress’s first day.

Representative Bob Goodlatte, who sponsored the proposal, announced the adopted change Monday night. Prior to his announcement, there was no public knowledge of his proposal or that it was being debated. Republican leadership, including Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, opposed the change.

The Office of Congressional Ethics was created in 2008 by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an independent, nonpartisan body in response to a string of ethics cases in the House. There is a House Ethics Committee, but that committee is not able to accept tips from the general public. The Office, however, is able to.

Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats in 2006 ran on a platform of “drain the swamp.” A slogan that ten years later would be adopted by Donald Trump in his successful run for the Presidency.

The proposal renames the Office as the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and then moves the Office under the House Ethics Committee. Goodlatte’s proposal effectively makes the Office into a place where citizens can submit ethics tips, but no longer anonymously, and only that. The tips would then be passed onto the House Ethics Committee or a law enforcement agency.

The new ethics office would also be prohibited from making any public statements or even hiring a communications staff.

Critics of the Office say that too many of the tips do not hold water, but still cause the congressman to have to spend large amounts of money defending his or herself.

Goodlette said in a statement, “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. 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.”

Pelosi reacted the move by saying, “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. 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.”

The move could still be blocked on Tuesday, but only if the larger rules package is rejected as well. Such a rejection would be a break in tradition, however.


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Tyler is the Chief Political Anchor and the Chief Political Reporter for TKNN. He can often be seen breaking news stories, and hosting TKNN's special coverage.

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