Jan. 3, 2017

After Public Outrage, House Republicans Suspend Efforts to Gut Ethics Office

Statements of Public Citizen Experts

Note: Due to enormous public backlash, U.S. House Republican leaders today walked back an overreaching amendment passed behind closed doors that would have stripped the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) of its independence and much of its power. The OCE, an independent ethics office, was set up in 2008 in the aftermath of numerous corruption scandals.

Lisa Gilbert, director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division:

Public outrage over House Republican’s appalling, secretive midnight actions to embolden corruption and congressional profiteering in the coming congress has forced the House GOP to reverse course. The OCE has proven invaluable to congress and the public by opening up the ethics process. Not only should it stay as is, it should be given more statutory authority and subpoena power.

The Office of Congressional Ethics was created to bring accountability to a broken House ethics system. Before the creation of the office, the House Ethics Committee was a black box of inaction. The office has brought transparency and action to a moribund process and received nothing but praise from those watching the congressional ethics system. It’s great that public pressure forced this reversal, but the readiness of the House Caucus to pursue this action is a profoundly troubling signal of what we should expect in the years to come.

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Holman helped set up the Office of Congressional Ethics:

The attempt by House Republicans to rid themselves of their own ethical constraints has temporarily foiled. We are thrilled by this change as we certainly should never return to an era of robber barons running our government, doing whatever they see fit.

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