UPDATE: Republicans removed this provision from the rules legislation. It’s not clear if they’ve dropped it forever or just because it looked bad to do it on the first day of the new session.
So Congressional Republicans had a private meeting last night in which they voted overwhelmingly to launch what you might call an anti-ethics bill. They[re attaching a sneaky little amendment onto a bigger bill that will strip away much of the power of the independent committee overseeing congressional ethics. The vote is scheduled to take place today.
In one of their first moves of the new Congress, House Republicans have voted to gut their own independent ethics watchdog — a huge blow to cheerleaders of congressional oversight and one that dismantles major reforms adopted after the Jack Abramoff scandal.
Despite a warning from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Republicans on Monday adopted a proposal by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee.
The office currently has free rein, enabling investigators to pursue allegations and then recommend further action to the House Ethics Committee as they see fit.
Now, the office would be under the thumb of lawmakers themselves. The proposal also appears to limit the scope of the office’s work by barring them from consider anonymous tips against lawmakers. And it would stop the office from disclosing the findings of some of their investigations, as they currently do after the recommendations go to House Ethics.
Who watches the watchdog? In this case, the people being watched by the watchdog watch the watchdog. No conflict of interest there!
As I mentioned, the House is scheduled to vote on the proposal TODAY. So hop to it! You can easily find the name and contact info of your congressional representative here.
The dude behind this is the lovely Bob Goodlatte (R, VA), who, it turns out, is neither good nor a latte. Even if you’re not in his district, you might want to give his DC office a call at (202) 225-5431. If you can’t get through, you can find numbers for his local offices at the bottom of his official website. There’s an email form there as well, though it’s restricted to those who live in his district. He’s also on Twitter.
And while you’re feeling civic-minded, why not thank Nancy Pelosi for speaking out against the proposal? Call her at (202) 225-4965 or (415) 556-4862, or contact her through her website. If you live outside her district and aren’t going to call, hit her up on Facebook or Twitter.
For handy advice on what to say when you call a congressperson’s office, see this post of mine from last week.