Ethics Committee Is Gutted By GOP As Trump And Ryan Disagree
The GOP’s House members decided to gut the the Ethics Committee. The Committee serves as an independent watchdog when it comes to Congress and now it won’t have the same effectiveness as before. This comes just mere days before President-Elect Donald Trump takes office and a whole new era begins. Republicans voted 119-74, which broke with party leaders, and infuriated the Democrats and outside ethic organizations.
This proposal brought forth by Virginia Rep Bob Goodlatte, gives the impression that the Independent Office of Congressional Ethics would not have the ability to investigate House Representatives for any misconduct. Another part of Goodlatte’s proposal would bar the panel from reviewing any violation of criminal law by members of Congress.
Instead, it would have to turn those complaints over to the House Ethics Committee or refer the matter to the appropriate federal law enforcement agency. Also, the House Ethics Committee would have the power to stop an investigation at any point and prevent the Ethics office from making any public statements about any matters or hire any communications staff.
Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders opposed the new proposal along with the House Democrats. However, rank-and-file members refused to follow in step and voted for the proposal. The Democrats, still reeling from a shocking loss back in November, are furious over the vote.
“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,” Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Monday following the vote. “The amendment Republicans approved tonight would functionally destroy this office.”
Pelosi was instrumental in the creation of the Independent Office of Congressional Ethics during her time as House Speaker. The Office was created as an independent body to investigate misconduct against lawmakers, officers and staff of the United States House of Representatives. It operates as a non-partisan organization and is wholly independent.
However, many members of both parties had complaints that it isn’t as nonpartisan as many would like to believe. There has been some accusations that the organization takes up partisan matters based on accusations from outside groups and members then have to mount an expensive defense for the investigation.
President-Elect Donald Trump blasted the move on social media.
“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 and so many other things of far greater importance!” he tweeted.
Even though Ryan voted against the proposal, he defended it in a statement following Trump’s tweets.
“After eight years of operation, many members believe the Office of Congressional Ethics is in need of reform to protect due process and ensure it is operating according to its stated mission,” Ryan said in a statement after Trump’s tweets. “I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the Office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress.”