Endorsing a proposal by Congressman Goodlatte, House Republicans voted Monday to gut the House of Representatives’ independent ethics watchdog.
Despite a warning from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Republicans on Monday adopted a proposal by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee.
The office currently has free rein, enabling investigators to pursue allegations and then recommend further action to the House Ethics Committee as they see fit.
Now, the office would be under the thumb of lawmakers themselves. The proposal also appears to limit the scope of the office’s work by barring them from consider anonymous tips against lawmakers. And it would stop the office from disclosing the findings of some of their investigations, as they currently do after the recommendations go to House Ethics.
President-elect Donald Trump ran on a platform of draining the swamp of an often all-too-cozy Washington D.C. Monday night’s moves go in the opposite direction, severely loosening oversight of lawmakers’ potential conflicts of interest, use of campaign money and other ethical matters.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement denouncing the Republicans’ action:
“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.
“The Office of Congressional Ethics is essential to an effective ethics process in the House, providing a vital element of transparency and accountability to the ethics process. The amendment Republicans approved tonight would functionally destroy this office.
“Congress must hold itself to the highest standards of conduct. Instead, the House Republicans Conference has acted to weaken ethics and silence would-be whistleblowers.”
Update: Even our ethically-challenged President-elect Donald Trump has criticized the House GOP’s vote, although he called the ethics panel “unfair.”
Further update: Following Trump’s criticism, House Republicans have withdrawn their plan to gut the ethics panel.