House Republicans have made a move to completely cut off the Office of Congressional Ethics. A vote to effectively disable the watchdog over congress was set behind closed doors by a Republican conference of representatives, without approval from party leaders. The New York Times reported that Republicans voted in a private conference to gut the Congressional Ethics Office.
Trump called them out Tuesday for proposing to curb the powers of the independent ethics panel as their first move of the year, but still thought that the ethics panel was ‘unfair.’
“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it … may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS,” Trump said over two consecutive tweets.
House Speaker Paul Ryan defended the proposed changes, marking the first high-profile break with Donald Trump just days into the new year.
“After eight years of operation, many members believe the Office of Congressional Ethics is in need of reform to protect due process and ensure it is operating according to its stated mission,” Ryan said in a statement after Trump’s tweets. “I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the Office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress.”
Of course the move infuriated many Democrats including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who stated, “Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House G.O.P. has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”