Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017.


House Republican Priorities

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Congress

So the very first thing House Republicans did when they got back to work was to vote to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

In a closed-door meeting Monday night, Republicans adopted House rules changes that would have essentially gutted their own oversight watchdog — a move that would have defied Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra aimed at making Washington more transparent and less cozy.

The surprise move on Monday night appeared to catch even House GOP leadership off guard, and the conference approved a pitch that would have put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the thumb of lawmakers on the House Ethics Committee. Monday’s effort was led, in part, by lawmakers who have come under investigation in recent years.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) came into being in 2008, when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker. The House Ethics Committee had devolved into something that simply made excuses, it was said. The OCE operates independently of Congress. It has no subpoena power but has investigated both Dems (Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel) and Republicans (Michele Bachmann).

Some people thought the OCE was overzealous, apparently.

In place of the office, Republicans would create a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review that would report to the House Ethics Committee, which has been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

“Poor way to begin draining the swamp,” Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, said on Twitter. He added, “Swamp wins with help of @SpeakerRyan, @RepGoodlatte.”

Mr. Goodlatte defended the action in a statement on Monday evening, saying it would strengthen ethics oversight in the House while also giving lawmakers better protections against what some of them have called overzealous efforts by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

To be fair, I understand Speaker Ryan was caught off guard by the announcement as well, which shows us even other Republicans think he is a useless dweeb.

The announcement yesterday quickly became a public relations debacle and blew up in the announcers’ faces.

Then The Donald issued a couple of tweets expressing mild disapproval. The plan was reversed. Although most news outlets are reporting that the tweets caused the reversal, Josh Marshall denies this is true. ” … the bigger point is that this started blowing up last night and was full firestorm before Trump said anything,” he wrote.

Even so, news media are crediting Trump with saving the OCE. The Times also said,

The comments constituted a public break by Mr. Trump with rank-and-file Republicans, who overrode their top leaders on Monday in a vote to significantly curtail the power of the ethics office, which was set up in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

I think the three members were Rep. William Jefferson, Rep. Rick Renzi and Sen. Ted Stevens, but I’m not sure. Tom DeLay didn’t ever do jail time, I don’t think.

I just think it shows us what House Republicans consider to be priorities. As soon as Trump is elected, Paul Ryan started babbling about gutting Medicare. As soon as they get back to work, their first act is to try to relieve themselves of ethical oversight.

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