On the last day before the new Congress takes office, House Republicans voted on Monday night in support of a proposal that would severely weaken an outside congressional watchdog group and compromise its independence.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), is the architect of a plan that would put the independent Office of Congressional Ethics — a preliminary watchdog group that monitors House members but has no power to punish — under the oversight of the same lawmakers they are tasked with investigating.
Goodlatte’s proposal will now be included in a more comprehensive rules package which is scheduled to be voted on by the full House of Representatives on Tuesday.
GOP Rep. Hal Rogers, the Appropriations Committee chairman, told reporters:
I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Rogers complained of “numerous examples” of members:
…Who were falsely accused by this group who had to spend a fortune to get their good name restored, so I think there’s been an abuse.”
Bill Flores (R-Texas) echoed Rogers’ sentiment stating that the independent ethics panel is:
Out of control, we don’t even get constitutional rights, constitutional protections. They don’t tell us who accuses us and they leak the data — they are out of control.”
The ethics panel currently operates as an independent, non-partisan body that’s tasked with investigating misconduct by lawmakers, officers, and staff of the U.S. House of Representatives. It was originally by Congress when Nancy Pelosi held speakership following numerous lobbying scandals. The panel continued to act as an independent oversite committee under former Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
This dubious proposal is a blatant attempt by House members to effectively neutralize the office whose sole purpose is to keep them honest. However, members from both parties have complained that the panel often investigates charges lodged by outside partisan groups with political motivations. And the probes cost members expensive defense campaigns. But other outside ethics groups say that the ethics panel is the only way to police congressional misconduct and that the group’s independent status and bipartisan composition represents the fairest way to oversee investigations.
Chris Carson, spokesperson for League of Women Voters, in a statement:
Gutting the independent ethics office is exactly the wrong way to start a new Congress … This opens the door for special interest corruption just as the new Congress considers taxes and major infrastructure spending.”
As expected, Twitter didn’t take this news lying down.
Proposed Goodlatte amendment to rules package would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under oversight of Ethics Committee
— Billy House (@HouseInSession) January 2, 2017
— Voltaire'sGardener (@thiswaltz5) January 2, 2017
— Basket Politics (@BasketPolitics) January 2, 2017
— Ellen Marie (@ellen_ritt) January 2, 2017
— MKVermette (@mkvermette) January 2, 2017
@HouseInSession This is absolutely unethical. Any transparency will be thrown out the window if this Amendment passes.
— Marcus S. (@goodwillfiction) January 2, 2017
@HouseInSession how do these Repubs go home and look their kids in the eye?
— Flo Floor (@Flomousy) January 2, 2017
@Flomousy Easy, they live gated communities, private schools. "Rich get rich and poor stay poor. That's how it goes, when Everybody Knows."
— YourHypocrisyNotMine (@LastTimeForSure) January 2, 2017
@HouseInSession House of Reps wants to strangle the independent watchdog that was created to prevent any more major House scandals.
— mataliandy (@mataliandy) January 2, 2017
— Leslie St. James (@leslie_stjames) January 2, 2017
Republicans are feeling more emboldened by President-elect Donald Trump to start slicing and dicing restrictive rules and oversight allowing them to fully embrace their traditional culture of corruption and other nefarious activities in the dark.
The American people need to pay closer attention to what these creeps are trying to sneak under the radar, otherwise, in the next four years, Republicans could do irreparable harm to the integrity of most of our institutions.
Featured image Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images