On Monday, House Republicans voted to severely weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that was established in 2008 to investigate corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to prison. Under the ethics change, pushed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and opposed by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Speaker Paul Ryan, the non-partisan ethics office would instead fall under the control of the House Ethics Committee.
The proposed change was met with widespread criticism, including a scolding from President-elect Donald Trump via Twitter, which eventually led to the rules change being dropped on Tuesday.
“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 tweeted on Tuesday morning, adding the hashtag #DTS for “drain the swamp.”
Goodlatte claimed, “The amendment builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics. It also improves upon due process rights for individuals under investigation, as well as witnesses called to testify. The OCE has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work.”
However, those in opposition argued that House Ethics Committee has a history of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers and questioned how legislatures could realistically be trusted to oversee corrupt behavior in their own midst.