In a closed-door meeting Monday night, House Republicans unexpectedly voted to all but destroy an independent ethics group that investigates them for wrongdoing. The move immediately drew intense criticism from Democrats and watchdog organizations, which portrayed the vote as a betrayal of the incoming Republican president’s campaign vow to “drain the swamp.”Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., offered the surprise amendment to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. The full Congress will vote on the entire rules package Tuesday, the first day of its new term.
Goodlatte’s move would change the name of the group from Office of Congressional Ethics to Office of Congressional Complaint Review, strip it of its independence, block it from investigating any wrongdoing that occurred prior to 2011, and prevent it from releasing its findings to the public, without the authorization of the House Committee on Ethics. The rules change would also prevent the panel from alerting law enforcement to criminal activity without the approval of the House committee.
On Tuesday morning, Donald Trump criticized the “timing” of the ethics vote, though he called the watchdog group “unfair.” The president-elect took to Twitter to argue that House members should be focused on other legislative priorities first.