Ethics Was Already a Joke [Update]

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The first official act of House Republicans in 2017 is bad, but it also feels like a formality.

The House Republican Conference voted last night to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics to such a degree that it may as well not even exist after today.

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

Ironically, the vote to kill the independent office did not include a roll call, meaning it was effectively a secret ballot. Moreover, the vote was held on a federal holiday.

Under the new rules, the Office of Congressional Ethics will not be able to accept anonymous tips, can no longer disclose its findings, can no longer recommend cases to law enforcement, and will be entirely subordinate to the House Ethics Committee.

And that last line is especially pertinent because the House Ethics Committee is a bad joke.

If we had a living, breathing ethics committee, it would have investigated Republicans who publicly admitted to using the Select Benghazi Committee as a taxpayer-funded opposition research program. A functioning ethics committee would have investigated former Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy for selectively leaking confidential, incomplete interview transcripts to the press.

Not coincidentally, the last time Republicans controlled all three branches of government in 2005, one of their first acts was to weaken congressional ethics rules. When Democrats regained control of Congress in 2007, one of their first acts was to create the independent Office of Congressional Ethics that isn't subject to the whims of congressional committees.

Ethics has never been a priority or even a concern of congressional Republicans and the most corrupt president in our history will soon take office. There's no reason to think Republicans will behave ethically in 2017 and every reason to assume they won't.

Update... Republicans have reportedly pulled the rules changes ahead of a final vote on the floor of the House. They probably wanted to avoid the embarrassing roll call.

One wonders how Republicans will handle significantly tougher votes, like the one to gut our entire healthcare system, if they can't handle a vote to close the ethics office.

  • Aynwrong

    I’m assuming when I first turn on MSNBC the first thing I’m gonna hear out of Chuck Todd’s mouth is “both sides.”

    I think I’m just going to nickname Chuck Dr. Both Sides

  • And goddamned, f’ing CNN is giving credit to Trump instead of the deluge of calls made to Congress by constituents.

    I see, alopecia beat me to the punch. 🙂

    • CNN now stands for “Chump News Network”. I’ve always disliked them but now I can’t even stomach them for 5 minutes.

    • Not just CNN, the New York Times as well

  • muselet

    Certain of our glorious news media—CNN, for one—are giving at least partial credit for the Rs’ about-face to Donald Trump, who tweeted that tax cuts for the rich and taking health insurance away from people are higher priorities than icing the Office of Congressional Ethics. That seems … dubious.

    I don’t expect this to be more than a temporary delay, since the Rs have historically hated diligent enforcement of ethics rules. It’s just a realization they were blowing the gaff too early. In a month or two, when Trump has gotten the US into trade wars with China and Mexico (or a shooting war with Iran), they’ll revisit the OCE.


    • JMAshby

      I’ll be watching for it to return tucked away inside an omnibus bill that’s passed at the 11th hour before a possible government shutdown.

    • Georgie

      Yep, they are just testing the water.

  • gescove

    Good to know they pulled the proposed rule changes on the Ethics office. I didn’t think Republicans were capable of shame or embarrassment or restraining their instinct for corruption. I guess we’ll see, but this may be only a temporary stay of execution.