Wednesday, January 4, 2017

House GOP Faceplant On Ethics Coup Shows Public Shame Still Matters

WASHINGTON ― At around 3 in the afternoon on Monday, with much of the country yet to ease back to work, a Bloomberg reporter posted a curious bit of news on Twitter: House Republicans were considering moving the Office of Congressional Ethics under the oversight of the House Committee on Ethics. 

That evening, Republicans gathered for a closed-door discussion and vote on the proposal, which had been put forward by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) as an amendment to the rules that would govern the lower chamber for the next two years. A handful of members argued in opposition, including the Republicans’ No. 2 man, Kevin McCarthy of California, but the amendment won the secret vote handily, 119-74, and became part of the full rules package.

The measure was extraordinary. It would rename the OCE to become the Office of Congressional Complaint Review. It would bar it from investigating any anonymous tips. It would block the body from moving forward on any investigation without full approval by members of Congress who oversee it, yet it would have no investigative ability to uncover evidence in order to obtain that approval. It would require the body to shut down an investigation on orders from those same members of Congress. And if the office learned of potential criminal activity, it would be barred from directly contacting law enforcement, a restriction of dubious constitutionality (and one devoid of ethics).

Then on Monday night, the public erupted at the news that the GOP had secretly nuked its own independent ethics watchdog. The debate, as it often does, initially played out on Twitter, and given such a partisan time, it was unusually lopsided against the move.

By the morning, it was front-page news on major papers, and President-elect Donald Trump, clearly observing the fury, jumped into the debate, chastising House Republicans for boneheaded timing. “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!” Trump suggested on his favorite medium, Twitter. Read full post here 

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