Tuesday, January 3, 2017

House Republicans Retreat from Ethics Change Following Backlash

I wasn't following politics too closely today. Indeed, I took my son to school and came home and went back to sleep. I woke up at Noon and the GOP ethics reform story was getting tremendous coverage at Memeorandum.

If House Republicans indeed retreated because Donald Trump tweeted his displeasure, that's gotta be a significant development. The GOP (and many in the conservative) establishment dissed Trump during the Republican primaries, lots of these people being part of the "Never Trump" movement. So it's interesting to see now the kind of power Trump can wield with a single tweet.

In any case, at WSJ, "House GOP Drops Bid to Undercut Ethics Board":

WASHINGTON—House Republicans on Tuesday dropped their effort to curb the independence of a nonpartisan ethics board after a fierce backlash to it eclipsed other news on the first day of the new session of Congress.

Meeting behind closed doors on Tuesday, House Republicans unanimously decided to scrap their effort to place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee, a move that would leave lawmakers policing themselves. That move, announced late Monday night, drew swift pushback from government-watchdog groups, Democrats and some Republicans, who heard from angry constituents about the proposal.

President-elect Donald Trump, in tweets Tuesday mornings, questioned the timing of the move over other congressional priorities.

“It’s like a circular firing squad—our first day here and we’re passing around the handgun,” lamented Rep. Rod Blum (R., Iowa).

As criticism mounted Tuesday, Republicans decided midday to abandon the measure for now, though lawmakers said they would try to advance changes to the ethics watchdog later this year. Lawmakers have raised concerns over the board, including objections that it makes complaints against them public.

House Republicans meeting Monday night had approved, by a 119-74 vote, the amendment from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) to a package of new House rules. Both House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) had objected to the amendment, urging a bipartisan approach to changing the office.

It wasn’t clear that the rules package would have had the votes to pass, given that it was likely to garner no support from Democrats, and some Republicans objected to the ethics amendment.

In two tweets Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump seemed to express sympathy with the move on its merits, calling the watchdog office “unfair.” But he said, “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it…may be, their number one act and priority.” He added that he would prefer a focus on issues “of far greater importance!”

The Office of Congressional Ethics serves as the chamber’s independent ethics watchdog by reviewing allegations against House members and staff. It is governed by an eight-person board of private citizens who don’t work for the government...
Still more.