With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Hobble Independent Ethics Office

Eric Lipton, reporting for The New York Times:

House Republicans, defying their top leaders, voted Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

The move to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics was not public until late Monday, when Representative Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change with no advance public notice or debate.

In its place, a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review would be set up within the House Ethics Committee, which before the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics had been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

A secret vote within the Republican caucus to effectively eliminate the office that investigates their own misconduct. This is an outrage.

Mr. Goodlatte defended the action in a statement issued Monday evening, saying it would strengthen ethics oversight in the House while also giving lawmakers better protections against what some members have called overzealous efforts by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Orwellian double-speak: strengthening an ethics office by stripping its independence. The Republicans — in the House at least — are dropping all pretense that they intend to govern with any integrity.

Update: 12 hours later:

House Republicans, facing a storm of bipartisan criticism, including from President-elect Donald J. Trump, moved early Tuesday afternoon to reverse their plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. It was an embarrassing turnabout on the first day of business for the new Congress, a day when party leaders were hoping for a show of force to reverse policies of the Obama administration.

Trump, it should be noted, didn’t voice opposition to the plan, only the timing of it.

Monday, 2 January 2017