Republicans drop plan to scrap ethics committee after criticism from Donald Trump

Republicans claimed the ethics board has been too ‘zealous’ against politicians 

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Tuesday 03 January 2017 16:24
Amid the criticism, the Republicans changed course, shortly after the new Congress was sworn in
Amid the criticism, the Republicans changed course, shortly after the new Congress was sworn in

Republicans have dropped controversial plans to scrap an independent ethics office after widespread criticism from the public and and questions from President-elect Donald Trump.

On Monday, Republicans in the US House of Representatives voted to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. Republican leaders in the House opposed the change.

On Tuesday, in the first example of how Republican in the new Congress may clash with the White House, Mr Trump said he did not think the move was a “priority”.

Amid the criticism – including a reported barrage of calls from constituents – the Republicans changed course, shortly after the new Congress was sworn in.

In a reversal, the House GOP decided on Tuesday to strip the provision from a package of rule changes that lawmakers will vote on later in the day.

Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma told the Associated Press: “People didn’t want this story on opening day.”

On Monday night, in a meeting that was not advertised and appears to come as a surprise to many gathered in Washington, it was announced that Republicans in the House had voted to effectively kill off the office.

Congressman Robert Goodlatte, a Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change.

The office was established in 2008 to investigate allegations of misconduct by lawmakers following several bribery and corruption scandals.

Republican leaders in the House had opposed the move. And on Tuesday morning, hours before the new Congress was to be officially sworn in, Mr Trump posted a pair of tweets in which he revealed his disagreement with the move.

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“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,” he wrote.

“Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS”

Mr Trump’s decision to speak out against the move may be the first incident when Republicans on Capitol Hill find themselves out of tune with some of the political beliefs of the Republican president.

Mr Trump has already shown his willingness to break with Republican orthodoxy on a number of issues, including trade and foreign affairs.

His criticism of the decision to scrap the ethics board will likely go down well with many of Mr Trump’s core supporters, who were attracted to him by his willingness to criticise Washington politicians.

If the decision approved by House Republicans is passed by the new Congress, in place of the ethics office, Republicans would create a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review that would report to the House Ethics Committee, which has been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by politicians.

Mr Goodlatte defended the action in a statement, saying it would strengthen ethics oversight in the House while also giving politicians better protections against what some of them have called overzealous efforts by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

“The OCE has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work,” he said.

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