House Republicans back Goodlatte’s plan to gut ethics watchdog

Endorsing a proposal by Congressman Goodlatte, House Republicans voted Monday to gut the House of Representatives’ independent ethics watchdog.

Politico reports:

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Further update: Following Trump’s criticism, House Republicans have withdrawn their plan to gut the ethics panel.

Additional update:

5 thoughts on “House Republicans back Goodlatte’s plan to gut ethics watchdog

  1. Here another article on this, giving some background on how and why the OCE was set up:
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/back-to-the-auction-house

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  2. Fortunately, the media are becoming less timorous about reporting things like this (i.e. finally doing their job), so we can expect to see a spate of stories before it dies down in a couple of days. But here are a couple more items for background. First, a succinct tweet:

    igorvolsky @igorvolsky
    Can’t get tips from whistleblowers
    Must abandon investigation upon request
    Can’t release anything to public
    Can’t refer anything to police

    Second, a report that’s a little dated, but still useful, on the need for independent ethics agencies:

    http://www.citizen.org/documents/OCE_Briefer.pdf

    And finally, sorry, but I can’t leave without a snark:

    igorvolsky @igorvolsky
    House Republicans held a secret vote during a secret meeting on a national holiday in order to eliminate their independent ethics watchdog.

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  3. Although the media are giving Trump credit for the back-down, it’s more likely the fact that constituents were flooding the Capitol switchboard with calls to their representatives. But you can be sure that Trump will say it’s all about him. He loves to take credit.

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  4. Trump axed this because he feared too much attention would be diverted from him to Congress’ failure to “drain the swamp.” But, keep the focus on Bobblehead Bob who is neck deep in the DC muck himself. The attack on this vital ethics watchdog shows the GOP is intent on hiding wrongdoing. They will protect their personal swamp while doing everything possible to degrade the Everglades.

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  5. […] failed in his effort to gut a Congressional ethics watchdog, Goodlatte is now intent on weakening the government’s […]

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