Quietly, in the dead of night, behind closed doors, and acting alone, the “Stupid Party” struck again when House Republicans voted to advance a proposal to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics (“OCE”), the independent watchdog for House ethical conduct.
The Tweeter-Elect, Donald Trump, immediately slapped down their outrageous action, requesting that they “focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance.”
Suffice to say, the 115th Congress under Republican control, is off to a rocky start.
The OCE was put into place by the Democrats who were attempting to “drain the swamp” in 2008, following the scandals surrounding the lobbying activities of Jack Abramoff during the Bush Administration. Apparently, the House Committee on Ethics (“HCE”) couldn’t police its own house and the Democrats were looking to clean up Congress (as well as score some political points).
Who doesn’t want to clean up Washington? Donald Trump’s pledge in the run up to the general election, referring to Hillary Clinton’s arguably unethical behavior as secretary of state, was to “drain the swamp.”
The OCE is supposed to be a completely independent body that receives ethics complaints (including anonymous ones) and investigates them for substance. They also are allowed to release this information publically and, more importantly, the staff of the OCE is nonpartisan.
Its recommendations are ultimately considered by the HCE, anyway. But the House Republicans would like the HCE to do all of the investigating itself.
House Republicans would like to control the entire ethics process with a committee that they control through their majority status.
They want to guard the hen house again.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R. VA), who introduced the proposal, argued that the committee has been a bit too aggressive. In fairness, this is corroborated by House members on the other side of the aisle who agree that the OCE sometimes goes over the top by publicizing their findings against the wishes of the House Ethics Committee.
It appears that this watchdog group, the OCE, has been too – shall we say – too independent. So, in other words, maybe the OCE was doing its job too well?
The upshot is that the House Republicans have withdrawn this proposal and promised to bring it up in a bipartisan manner later on. But should they? They can’t be that stupid, can they?
So I did some research and I discovered something about this so-called “House Watchdog.” I naively assumed that it was independent lawyer or two with a small support staff. Well, like all things created by Democrats and others who just love growing the Federal Government, it’s huge (yuge)!
You can look it up too; here’s their site. They have a large staff and a large board and incredibly confusing and redundant procedures.
By the way, read the bios. They are all incredibly-talented and committed people. But why are there so many of them? Why so much bureaucracy? Maybe the Republicans have a point, though their optics are appalling, aren’t they?
However, this fiasco has a silver lining. The first is that House Speaker, Paul Ryan (R. WI) is on record as having spoken out against Goodlatte’s proposal at the secret meeting. That speaks well for his leadership.
And, everyone in America finally agrees with a tweet by Donald Trump.
That’s a start…
Jon Saltzman is the Senior Editor and Publisher of Political Storm.