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Congress scraps plan to gut its own ethics watchdog after Trump tweets
January 7, 2017
President-elect Donald Trump is already affecting policy via Twitter, pressuring members of Congress to drop their controversial amendment to strip their own ethics watchdog of a handful of oversight duties after he called them out on the social media site.
It all started Monday when, CNN reports, House Republicans voted in a closed-door meeting, 119 to 74, in favor of placing the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the watchful eye of the very lawmakers it is supposed to oversee.
Buzzfeed News reports the amendment would have barred the independent, nonpartisan agency from accepting or investigating any anonymous reports of alleged wrongdoings by Congress members. It also would have required the panel to hand over complaints to the House Ethics Committee, stopped them from reviewing any violation of criminal law by Congress members, and given the House Ethics Committee the power to halt any investigation.
Public outcry was overwhelming, as was condemnation from Democrats and the president-elect.
The law was packaged into a larger set of rules to be voted on at a later date, but later Tuesday, CNN reports, the House held an emergency meeting where members decided to scrap the changes to the independent watchdog.
Even after it was all over, Democrats still felt like they needed to take a stand. "House Republicans showed their true colors last night, and reversing their plans to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics will not obscure their clear contempt for ethics in the People's House," Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, said in a statement after Republicans yanked their amendment back, according to CNN. "Republicans should remember the strength of public outrage they faced in the space of 12 hours as they scheme to do lasting damage to the health and economic security of millions and millions of hard-working families."
But just because the House decided to give into Trump's pressure to "drain the swamp" doesn't mean all Republicans were on board. CNN reports House Speaker Paul Ryan made his first big break from Trump saying in a written statement, "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 explained. "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."
The Washington Post reports that the OCE was created in 2008 to address concerns that the House Ethics Committee hadn't been keen on pursuing accusations against their own.
Critics of House Republicans' vote on Monday say the move was an effort to yield more power to their already majority-held House, Senate and now executive branch.
The Washington Post points out, though, that Republicans are under intense pressure to unite after years of disjointed goals both on the campaign trail and in Congress.