House GOP Reverses Course On Gutting Office Of Congressional Ethics

After a fierce public backlash, the House GOP reversed course and withdrew the rules change that would have gutted the Office of Congressional Ethics, according to members who were present at the emergency GOP meeting mid-day Tuesday.

The amendment, put forward by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), that would have significantly hobbled the Office of Congressional Ethics was approved overwhelmingly by the GOP caucus Monday night in a closed-door meeting, but was meet with swift public outcry. The provision would have put the office under the control of the House Ethics Committee, reducing its independence, and would have blocked some of its other powers, including its abilities to accept anonymous tips and to report suspected crimes directly to law enforcement.

An emergency House GOP caucus meeting was called Tuesday morning, not long after President-elect Donald Trump criticize the timing of the move to overhaul ethics office, but nonetheless called the office “unfair.” Monday’s vote on the changes was by secret ballot so it was unclear who exactly was opposed to the provision. It was reportedly passed, however, despite warnings from House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

By Tuesday morning, some Republicans were already signaling their intention to vote against the entire rules package due to the overhaul of the ethics office.

As they emerged from Tuesday’s meeting, some GOP lawmakers, while confirming the language had been stripped from the Rules package, nonetheless continued to voice their frustration with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

“I’m for this: abolish it entirely,” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting. He added that the plan was now to “go to work on it” in a bipartisan fashion.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said there are as many Democrats as Republicans would want to see some oversight on OCE. He expected The House Ethics committee to work together and come up with a bipartisan proposal he hoped would be ready before the August recess.

Simpson said those who didn’t listen to leadership’s warning “shot themselves in the foot,” but “sometimes you’ve got to learn the hard way.”

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