GOP Flip-Flops, Won't Gut Ethics Office After Outcry

Republicans reinstate old Office of Congressional Ethics rules
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2017 12:22 PM CST
Republicans Cave, Won't Gut Ethics Office
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy discusses the move by House Republicans to eviscerate the independent Office of Government Ethics prior to Republicans reversing course hours later.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

That was quick. Less than 24 hours after voting to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics in a secret meeting Monday, House Republicans passed a motion during an emergency meeting Tuesday to restore the independent office's old rules following a "firestorm of criticism," the Los Angeles Times reports. The New York Times calls it an "embarrassing" start to a new Republican-controlled Congress, and Politico says the reversal was a "self-inflicted public relations debacle" on what "was supposed to be a jubilant day for the right." Republican leaders in the House had warned against Monday's vote, and criticisms of changes to the OCE came from both parties, as well as constituents, watchdog groups, and the president-elect.

Hours before the vote to reinstate the old OCE rules, Donald Trump—in a series of tweets—agreed with House Republicans that the OCE is "unfair" but questioned their timing on gutting it, saying they should focus on tax reform and healthcare first. The OCE was created after a series of 2008 scandals that put three members of Congress in jail. On Monday, House Republicans—a number of them the onetime subjects of OCE investigations—voted to prohibit the OCE from accepting anonymous tips about lawmakers and investigating criminal activity, which is most of what the office does. The rule change would have given control of the OCE to the very same lawmakers it's supposed to be investigating. (Read more Office of Congressional Ethics stories.)

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