Republicans shelve move to weaken ethics office after Trump’s criticism

Washington, Jan 4 (IANS) House Republicans on Tuesday shelved their plan to weaken the independent ethics entity — known as the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) — that investigates accusations of inappropriate conduct by congressmen and other personnel just two hours after President-elect Donald Trump questioned the move.

According to EFE news, to question the original motives of the lawmakers in his party, Trump wrote on twitter: “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.”

“Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance,” the President-elect urged GOP lawmakers.

The magnate signed his latest tweet with the letters “DTS”, an abbreviation for his campaign slogan of “Drain the swamp”, a reference to rooting out corruption in Washington political circles.

In an urgent meeting behind closed doors, Republican House leaders — Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — managed to impose their will on their fellow lawmakers and postpone the debate on the measure scheduled for Tuesday, a move that quells the mini-rebellion launched on Monday night by House Republicans in another closed-door meeting.

In that Monday evening meeting, GOP lawmakers had voted to significantly restrict the power of the ethics office.

The vote, taken behind closed doors and with no prior announcement, came during a meeting at which Ryan and McCarthy opposed the measure.

On Tuesday, the newly-installed Congress goes back into session, with the Republicans having maintained its majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the November 8 elections.

The measure to “gut” the OCE adopted by Republicans at the Monday meeting was proposed by lawmaker Bob Goodlatte and would have placed the independent entity under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee, EFE news added.

In that way, GOP lawmakers were apparently seeking to gain control over the OCE’s monitoring role, ostensibly because the office in the past has ignored credible accusations of improper practices by certain lawmakers.

The OCE was established as a non-partisan and independent entity within Congress in 2008 under the leadership of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, after several corruption and other scandals involving congressmen.

In a statement on Tuesday, Pelosi had denounced the vote to weaken the office’s power, saying that it indicates that “ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, had defended the move, saying that it is not intended to “impede” the work of the OCE.