In their first act of the new year, House Republicans held a secret meeting and a secret vote to essentially kill the Office of Congressional Ethics. From Eric Lipton at The New York Times:
The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, where emboldened Republicans are ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests. The House Republicans’ move would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries. […]
By moving all of the authority to the House Ethics Committee, several ethics lawyers said, the House risks becoming far too protective of members accused of wrongdoing. […] “This is huge,” said [Bryson Morgan, who worked as an investigative lawyer at the Office of Congressional Ethics from 2013 until 2015], who now defends lawmakers targeted in ethics investigations. “It effectively allows the committee to shut down any independent investigation into member misconduct. Historically, the ethics committee has failed to investigate member misconduct.”
House Republicans held a secret vote during a secret meeting on a national holiday in order to eliminate their independent ethics watchdog
Ã¢Â€Â” igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) January 3, 2017
Democrats were already opposed to the package of rules changes, which includes measures introduced by Ryan in an apparent attempt to prevent protests from the House floor, like the Democrats sit in against gun violence last year. Many said hobbling the ethics board shows Republicans actually have no intention of following one of Donald Trump’s key campaign promises. […]
“It should be clear by now that Donald Trump – already the most corrupt and conflicted President-elect in history – is betraying his promise to drain the swamp,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Eric Walker. “Now Republicans in the House are following his example, attempting to cripple the independent entity that deals with ethics in Congress.”
To be clear, Trump has no direct role in the House GOP’s effort to curtail ethics investigations of its members. The president-elect recently insisted that his effort to “drain the swamp” is still on, and he could prove it by calling on members of his party to leave the Office of Congressional Ethics alone. On the other hand, Trump probably doesn’t want to start a war with the body that’s supposed to hold him accountable for ethics violations.