After Backlash, Including From Trump, House GOP Drops Weakening Of Ethics Office
After a storm of criticism, including from President-elect Trump, House Republicans have reversed themselves, and restored the current rules of the Office of Congressional Ethics, NPR's Susan Davis confirms.
In a surprise action Monday night, before the new Congress was sworn in, the GOP members had voted to significantly weaken the office.
But Trump, and outside groups blasted the move. Trump questioned, via Tweet, Congress's priorities. Trump tweeted in a pair of posts that while the OCE was "unfair," Congress had more important issues to take up, including tax reform and health care.
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— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017
........may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017
Other opposition to the gutting of the office was swift, and came from some unexpected sources.
Exhibit A: Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist, who's conviction on influence-peddling charges helped lead to the creation of the OCE, told Politico the Republicans' action was "exactly the opposite of what Congress should be doing."
Former Congressman Bob Ney, who also served time after being convicted as part of the same scandal, said, "House Republicans should not have done this and also the way they did it without announcing it is not a public policy to be proud of."
Judicial Watch, the conservative group that has led efforts to release former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's e-mails, called the House rules change "shady and corrupt," and a "drive by effort" to eliminate the OCE, and "a poor way for the Republican majority to begin "draining the swamp.'"
House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement saying many members feel that after eight years, the office "is in need of reform." Ryan said the office will continue to operate independently and still take complaints from members of the public. He said the House Ethics Committee will merely provide oversight of the complaints office but he insisted that the office "is not controlled by the committee."
The Project on Government Oversight also chimed in, saying ethics watchdogs like the OCE "need to be strengthened and expanded-not taken out back and shot in the middle of the night."