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In their first act of the new year, House Republicans held a secret meeting and a secret vote to essentially kill the Office of Congressional Ethics. From Eric Lipton at The New York Times:
The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, where emboldened Republicans are ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests. The House Republicans’ move would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries. [...]
By moving all of the authority to the House Ethics Committee, several ethics lawyers said, the House risks becoming far too protective of members accused of wrongdoing. [...] “This is huge,” said [Bryson Morgan, who worked as an investigative lawyer at the Office of Congressional Ethics from 2013 until 2015], who now defends lawmakers targeted in ethics investigations. “It effectively allows the committee to shut down any independent investigation into member misconduct. Historically, the ethics committee has failed to investigate member misconduct.”
Democrats were already opposed to the package of rules changes, which includes measures introduced by Ryan in an apparent attempt to prevent protests from the House floor, like the Democrats sit in against gun violence last year. Many said hobbling the ethics board shows Republicans actually have no intention of following one of Donald Trump’s key campaign promises. [...]
“It should be clear by now that Donald Trump – already the most corrupt and conflicted President-elect in history – is betraying his promise to drain the swamp,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Eric Walker. “Now Republicans in the House are following his example, attempting to cripple the independent entity that deals with ethics in Congress.”
To be clear, Trump has no direct role in the House GOP’s effort to curtail ethics investigations of its members. The president-elect recently insisted that his effort to “drain the swamp” is still on, and he could prove it by calling on members of his party to leave the Office of Congressional Ethics alone. On the other hand, Trump probably doesn’t want to start a war with the body that’s supposed to hold him accountable for ethics violations.
Rachel Bade and John Bresnahan at POLITICO:
Monday's effort was led, in part, by lawmakers who have come under investigation in recent years. [...] Now, the office would be under the thumb of lawmakers themselves. The proposal also appears to limit the scope of the office’s work by barring them from considering anonymous tips against lawmakers. And it would stop the office from disclosing the findings of some of their investigations, as they currently do after the recommendations go to House Ethics. [...]
The vote to declaw the OCE was orchestrated by several members who felt they had been wrongfully accused of unethical behavior by the OCE, according to several sources in the room. The sources said several members currently or formerly under the OCE's microscope stood up to support the pitch, which was eventually adopted by a vote of 119 to 74.
Ah theres plenty more at the site but lets rest assured, nothing say "Free and Open Government" like the government passing secret bills in the Star Chamber. So much for 'the rules' that were going to stop them from being corrupt and doing illegal things.
Since we already know they are going to kill off Social Security, Medicare and all other "entitlements" as they think of them, it makes one think fondly on the "Arbeit Macht Frei" theme. Shouldn't be long before they start passing the bills that make it illegal to be Homosexual, Atheist, or Non-Christian as the TEA Baggers have already made clear that is next on the agenda. We already have some friends who are seriously looking at getting a new passport to get their child out. Interesting, one of them has a grandparent who actually lived through the 1930's Euro uprising and subsequent take overs, in Germany. She has been telling them to get out of the U.S. while they can.
And for those who thought the "Rules" were going to stop any 'immoral, illegal or otherwise wonky acts", well the Republicans just showed them what they think of Ethics. This is going to be a long decade.