House GOP Votes to 'Effectively Kill' Ethics Watchdog
Office of Congressional Ethics will lose authority
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2017 2:10 AM CST
Updated Jan 3, 2017 6:37 AM CST
"Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress," Nancy Pelosi said.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(Newser) – Did the swamp just vote against drains? House Republicans bucked party leaders Monday night with a vote that the New York Times reports will hobble and "effectively kill" their independent ethics watchdog. Under a change that comes as part of a rules package for the 115th Congress, which will be sworn in Tuesday, the non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics will be put under the control of the House Ethics Committee, which is run by House lawmakers, giving them the final say in investigating allegations of their own misconduct, PBS reports. The watchdog, which will be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review under the proposal, will no longer be able to receive anonymous tips or make its investigations public. The OCE was created in 2008 after a series of scandals, including the one that sent corrupt GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff to prison.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was among those warning against the proposal, which was adopted by a vote of 119 to 74. Politico reports that lawmakers from both parties had complained that the OCE had been too aggressive in its investigations, and the effort to defang it was led by Republicans who had been investigated by the body. The proposal, which Congress will vote on on Tuesday afternoon, was criticized by other watchdog groups, as well as Democrats. "The Republicans claim they want to 'drain the swamp,' but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress."

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