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House GOP Scraps Ethics Revamp After Public, Trump Backlash

House GOP Scraps Ethics Revamp After Public, Trump Backlash

A media-made mess

The House Republicans sure do know how to get the ball rolling on a new session. They kept control, but still can’t seem to operate properly! Someone seriously needs to provide a proper communications course for all Republicans in D.C. In one of their first moves, the House Republicans caused a fuss over the weekend after Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) proposed changes to an independent watchdog group, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

According to the media, House Republicans gutted their own independent watchdog group and that Republicans wanted more power. In other words, mass hysteria!

A close look at the amendment, which I notice missing from many articles, shows that Goodlatte actually attempted to strengthen the OCE by pushing it farther from the House, thus making it even more independent, and making sure the board does not violate the rights of those accused.

But if the Republicans had rolled out the idea a tad better, they may have avoided the backlash and not been forced to retreat with their tails between their legs.

Goodlatte’s amendment makes a lot of sense, but the Republicans presented it without much explanation. Instead, the wording allowed the media to jump to those conclusions.

The amendment actually fixes problems that have plagued the OCE. First off, Goodlatte proposed changing the name to the Office of Congressional Complaint Review to stop confusion with the House Ethics Committee (HEC) and to prove it does not have the same responsibilities as HEC.

The other change would’ve helped to stop corruption within the committee and protect people from false accusations. I know, how dare Goodlatte do that, right? Everyone is allowed due process so why should they exclude those in office? He wrote (emphasis mine):

The board of the Office shall include in its rules provisions to protect the due process of individuals who are the subject of a preliminary review or second-phase review by the board, and of witnesses, including informing such individuals and witnesses of the right to be represented by counsel and ensuring that the invocation of that right will not be held negatively against them.

The Office may not take any action that would deny any person any right or protection provided under the Constitution of the United States.

Goodlatte proposed that those on the board not make public statements about those under investigation “or release any information or other material to the public or any other entity” unless the entire committee authorizes the action.

Oh, another thing. The amendment states that if the committee receives a complaint involving “a violation of a criminal law, the Board will immediately refer the matter to the Committee on Ethics for further review or (if determined appropriate by the Committee on Ethics) referral to an appropriate law enforcement agency.”

But FAKE NEWS. Of course, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted:

Then, everyone flipped out when it was reported that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) did not approve of the amendment. However, Ryan actually met with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), arguing “against making a unilateral ethics change in a meeting on Monday, pressing for a bipartisan approach at a later date.”


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buckeyeminuteman | January 3, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Republicans have ran the House for 5 years now and I’m still scratching my head. Apparently roll over and play dead is their best idea yet.

Henry Hawkins | January 3, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Talk about ignoring optics… yikes, who decided this is what the constituency wanted to open with?

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Henry Hawkins. | January 3, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    GOP leadership: “OK, Mr. Trump becomes president in 17 days or so, and he’s got some big plans, so first thing we gotta do is ‘reshape’ this whole concept of congressional ethics….”

    Is the GOPe trying to tag Trump as unethical or are they this clumsy?

Good write-up and sound conclusion, Mary.

Timing is everything … and the GOP timing was awful.

The actual package might be ok – but really, the first order of business is taking care of Congress? Sounds like “Me, me, me, mine and a little bit more for me.”

Starting working for the people, Confress Critters. Tick-tock.

    gwsjr425 in reply to PrincetonAl. | January 4, 2017 at 8:13 am

    You can’t freely “work for the people” when at any time some “anonymous source” can throw an ethics charge at you because they don’t like the legislation you’re trying to get passed.

We are all ashamed of the GOP in the House for even thinking that something like this at this time was necessary. But the really funny effect from it was that cnn came out with a piece asking if what the House was doing was because of the Trump effect! As usual, they have it 180 degrees off and I don’t expect an apology from any of them.

Though the amendment does not scrap the Office of Congressional Ethics, the amendment makes it a subsidiary of the the House Committee on Ethics. It also requires that a joint request be filed before the Office may make any preliminary investigation. It is prohibited from investigating any anonymous complaint. And, it must terminate any investigation, immediately, upon notification of the Committee on Standards of official Conduct. And, finally, it is barred from presenting any criminal complaint to any law enforcement agency, unless authorized by the Committee on Ethics. And, its only true function is to present its case to the CoE, confidentially, and the CoE would make any determination as to what action should be taken. This would pretty well remove any independence of the OCE from the House and make it largely superfluous.

By this point it’s hardly a surprise that the Republicans have leadership problems.

And communication problems. And motivation problems. And rampant befuddlement about tactics. And severe myopia regarding strategy.

They’re a mess.

The Dems are essentially leaderless at the moment. But confusion also means opportunity. This is the time to really put the screws to the Dems and their entire rotten, corrupt agenda. But the Repubs simply aren’t ready to do that.

Perhaps they need someone to slap them out of their complacency; maybe even lead them out of the wilderness.

By “someone” I mean someone other than Ryan or McConnell.

Good leadership would be great. But in the circumstances, perhaps any leadership would be a vast improvement.

ShoesNotSlippers | January 3, 2017 at 5:49 pm

At least President Trump came to the rescue and saved them from themselves. Trump understands that it doesn’t matter if the changes were bad or good, concentrating time and attention and the media on anything other than the Trump agenda that people voted for is BAD.

Trump effect tweets again.

Fake news? Really? Trump only stated not a priority and left room for it to be needed, just not now. Republicans need to learn how to sell. You can have the best product in the world and not be able to sell it.

Stupid freaking republicans. They just refuse to set the narrative. They are incapable of ever explaining why they take action and allow the left/media to run all over them.

The thing is the optics are never going to be good, and yet it has to be done or the optics will be a whole lot worse when the Dems decide to target someone with the Gingrich/Palin treatment.

    The answer is to make sure for every Republican they target, we find two Democrats who have done the same (won’t be hard) and file on them. Keep it up until the double standard for who’s found guilty is clear, and we can get an equal protection case up to Trump’s revamped SCOTUS, or else remove lots of Democrats.

The stupid party.

Always offering proof.