Monday, January 02, 2017

House GOP guts ethics panel

Jan. 2, 2017

House Republicans voted 119-74 Monday night in favor of a proposal that would gut Congress' outside ethics watchdog and remove its independence.

Republican Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte's proposal would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics -- an initial watchdog for House members but without power to punish members -- under oversight of those very lawmakers.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and other top GOP leaders opposed the change to ethics rules, but rank-and-file members disregarded their views and voted to approve the new structure for ethics reviews going forward, according to a senior House GOP leadership source familiar with the closed door discussion.

The proposal would bar the panel from reviewing any violation of criminal law by members of Congress, requiring that it turn over any complaint to the House Ethics Committee or refer the matter to an appropriate federal law enforcement agency. The House Ethics Committee would also have the power to stop an investigation at any point and bars the ethics office from making any public statements about any matters or hiring any communications staff.

And the ethics office would no longer be able to accept or investigate any anonymous reports of alleged wrongdoing by members of Congress.

The full House of Representatives will now vote on it as part of a larger rules package up for consideration on Tuesday.


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