As mentioned in our previous post these actions would have placed the independent congressional ethics office under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee, changed the OCE’s name and barred the office from releasing reports to the public. In effect, it would have neutered Congress’ most aggressive watchdog.
It did not go as planned.
After a torrent of bad headlines, a morning full of 24 hour news stations ripping them to shreds, a campaign on social media, a flood of phone calls to members offices from angry constituents, letters of rebuke from the Campaign for Accountability, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the League of Women Voters, Judicial Watch, Common Cause and two (staff authored) tweets from Donald Trump, the House Republicans dropped their plans just minutes before they were set to gavel in the 115th Congress.
|Yes, this Jack Abramoff!|
So just before noon on Tuesday, facing public pressure and an internal mutiny, GOP leadership called a special meeting and told Republicans they needed to strip the OCE amendment.
Leaders told members they would instead work with Democrats to come up with a proposal to reform the OCE before the August recess.
A number of Republicans were unsatisfied by the promise including Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) who said he would now work to completely abolish the Office of Congressional Ethics, citing concerns over anonymous whistleblowers making accusations against members and the OCE leaking information to the press. Asked to provide an example of the OCE leaking information to the press, King failed to come up with one and got testy. “Just google it,”
King added that the right of members of Congress to face their accusers...
“goes right back to Jesus himself, standing before the high priest.”
Yeah, I am pretty sure all of the House Republicans moves this week were straight out of Jesus' playbook.
Democrats feeling emboldened by this slap down of a powerful Republican party that soon will control all three branches of government made their voices heard.
Pelosi issued a statement after the amendment was dropped, noting the “clear contempt for ethics in the People’s House” that she said Republicans showed with their plan.
“Once again, the American people have seen the toxic dysfunction of a Republican House that will do anything to further their special interest agenda, thwart transparency and undermine the public trust. Republicans should remember the strength of public outrage they faced in the space of 12 hours as they scheme to do lasting damage to the health and economic security of millions and millions of hard-working families.”
Delivering his inaugural floor speech as Senate minority leader, Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed to fight Trump on issues where Democrats disagree...
“It is not our job to be a rubber stamp. It is our job to do what’s best for the American people, the middle class and those struggling to get there.”
And so it begins.
Just to be clear though House Republicans have not abandoned an OCE overhaul entirely, but any changes are being put off until later in the year.