In the past day, House Republicans have stunned the political community twice. First, by voting in secret to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics and then reversing that decision among rampant criticism. This article will explore what the Office of Congressional Ethics actually is, and why Republicans pulled, then reinstated, their support for it.
What is the Office of Congressional Ethics?
The Office of Congressional Ethics was initially established by former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA-D) as a response to corruption scandals that ended in congressmen being jailed. It was set up as a way for the House to internally police its own members. The committee investigates ethics scandals and recommends to the House Ethics Committee a course of action in dealing with them. It is made up of a nonpartisan committee, and therefore does not have the same bias as the actual House Ethics Committee
Why did Republicans try to kill the committee?
Republicans pulled their support for this committee late Monday night in an effort to kill the Democrat-established committee. Supporters explained that:
“The amendment builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics. It also improves upon due process rights for individuals under investigation, as well as witnesses called to testify.”
This amendment would give lawmakers better protection from the Office of Congressional Ethics while hoping to strengthen it. However, many critics vehemently disagreed with this assumption, claiming that it would instead impede ethical oversight of Congress.
Why did they reverse their decision?
This decision to pull support for the committee was criticized by Democrats and top ethic watch groups, along with prominent Republicans. Important party members like president-elect Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan spoke against their own party’s actions.
Many concerned citizens also called government offices to express their opposition to the bill.
Amidst all of this criticism, the House Republicans reversed their decision.
This stunning move showcases the divide in the Republican Party at a time when it holds great power. It is anyone’s guess what will happen within congress and the Republican Party itself in the coming months with the Republican-controlled Congress hungry for change.
Lead Image Credit: Pierre Selim via Flickr Creative Commons