House Republicans on Monday evening voted to rename the Office of Congressional Ethics to "Office of Congressional Complaint Review" and to place the office under the House Ethics Committee. The measure was sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) were not in favor of the measure.
The 119-to-74 vote during a GOP conference meeting means that the House rules package expected to be adopted Tuesday, the first day of the 115th Congress, would rename the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) as the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee.
The OCE was created in 2008 to address concerns that the Ethics Committee had been too timid in pursuing allegations of wrongdoing by House members. Under the current House ethics regime, the OCE is empowered to release a public report of its findings even if the Ethics Committee chooses not to take further action against a member.
Reactions to the changes were mostly negative:
"The first thing they did was gut the ethics office" is a line that can fit in an attack ad in 2018, if scandals are in the news...— Josh Barro (@jbarro) January 3, 2017
House GOP votes to turn independent ethics office into an unread complaint box. Why won't GOP keep their party promise to #DraintheSwamp ?— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 3, 2017
Dear @HouseGOP,— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) January 3, 2017
Why are you gutting the independent ethics office? What are you hiding?
I believe Guy may have said it best:
"OK! New year, Republican government! What should we start with?"— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 3, 2017
"Ooh, let's erode ethics rules without warning or almost any debate!"