Last night, behind closed doors and with no warning or debate,
House Republicans voted a midnight rules change, gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics, the agency that watches Congress to see if any of them might have a hand in the cookie jar. Essentially the Office was neutered, losing its independence from the legislators it is supposed to be policing. With the incoming Trump Administration, I expected the executive branch to be corrupt and sneaky, but I didn’t see this coming. Apparently Congress thinks if Trump can get way with thumbing his nose at the very idea of governmental propriety, so can they.
But this morning, after a deluge of criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, the press, and phone calls from constituents, House Republicans hastily backed off their gambit. Their excuse is that they “need more time” to research the rules changes they favor, but the more likely reality is that they didn’t think they’d get caught pulling this particular shenanigan, and once they were busted they had to retreat.
So for now there will still be an independent panel keeping an eye on them, but by August they might try this again. Between now and then I suspect we will all get really good at dialing our congresspersons and senators, so stand by for the next Republican attempt to free themselves from those pesky ethical constraints.