Congress’ first day back has already been a complete shit show
Leave it to the GOP to begin the 115th Congress with shady maneuverings and awkward flip-flopping. Despite Republicans’ rallying cry against Hillary Clinton being that she was corrupt and untrustworthy, House Republicans voted to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics late Monday night. But, after everyone from House Speaker Paul Ryan to president-elect Donald Trump voiced their criticism of the move, they decided Tuesday to keep the old ethics rules on the books. Day one has already been exhausting, so settle in for the chaos that’s sure to come.
The independent watchdog for congressional ethics investigates allegations of corrupt dealings and recommends whether or not the House Ethics Committee should take action. The office was established by Democrats in 2008 after a few congressmen went to jail after a GOP lobbyist pled guilty to conspiring to bribe public officials. Currently working independently (as watchdogs typically do), the Office of Congressional Ethics would have been replaced by a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review reporting to the House Ethics Committee if the full House voted on the proposed rules Tuesday.
Essentially, GOP lawmakers wanted to control how and when they’re investigated. Politico reports some of the lawmakers pushing for this change have been under investigation themselves, so of course they wanted to get rid of a group with real power to keep them in check.
On top of placing the new Office of Congressional Complaint Review under lawmakers’ grasp, the new rule wouldn’t have allowed the agency to investigate anonymous tips against congress members or disclose its findings after making its recommendations.
“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement to Politico. “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”
With new members of the House and Senate sworn into a Republican-led Congress Tuesday and a business tycoon followed by more scandals than anyone cares to count soon moving into the White House, gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics would have been the final nail in the coffin for the hope that maybe Washington won’t fall into a state of total fraud and despair. While some will claim Trump’s tweet opposing the proposed changes swayed Congress to ditch the effort, he simply jumped on the GOP leadership’s bandwagon, worrying about how the move would look. It was clear to anyone and everyone that it looked incredibly shady, and it definitely won’t be the last time Congress tries to make changes that only benefits its members.