A conservative watchdog group says that House Republicans’ decision to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics is “shameful” and will severely restrict investigations of congressional wrongdoing.
“It is shameful that House Republicans are trying to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics, the most significant ethics reform in Congress when it was established nearly a decade ago,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a statement on Tuesday.
House Republicans voted in secret on Monday to scrap the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog that has the power to investigate members of Congress. House GOP leadership opposed the move, but rank-and-file members supported the rule, proposed by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, in a 119-74 vote.
Should the larger House pass the rule in a vote later Tuesday, investigations normally carried out by the Office of Congressional Ethics will fall under the purview of the House Ethics Committee or federal law enforcement agencies. The new rules will also prohibit investigations based on anonymous complaints filed against members of Congress.
Judicial Watch, which worked with California Rep. Nancy Pelosi to institute OCE in 2008, says that the move goes against the idea of “draining the swamp,” the mantra adopted by President-elect Donald Trump and other Republicans.
“This drive-by effort to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics, which provides appropriate independence and transparency to the House ethics process, is a poor way for the Republican majority to begin ‘draining the swamp,’” said Fitton.
“The American people will see this latest push to undermine congressional ethics enforcement as shady and corrupt. The full House should seriously consider whether it wants to bear the brunt of public outrage and go through with the rule change this afternoon.”
Trump offered mild criticism of the proposed rule change 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…maybe, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!” Trump wrote on Twitter, adding a “Drain the Swamp” hashtag.