UPDATE: The decision has been reversed.
Early Tuesday morning, the GOP controlled Congress voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, an office independent of Congress, and moved it under the House Ethics Committee. Effectively, this makes it harder for American citizens to file complaints against Representatives, taking power away from the voters to oversee their government.
The decision has already come under fire by a number of media outlets and independent government watchdog groups. The President-elect is also displeased with the move.
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— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017
........may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017
Shortly after the decision was announced, Republican members of Congress immediately went into damage control mode and Speaker Paul Ryan, who was reportedly against the move, is trying to reassure Americans politicians will still be held to the highest account.
“After eight years of operation, many members believe the Office of Congressional Ethics is in need of reform to protect due process and ensure it is operating according to its stated mission. I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the Office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress," Ryan released in a statement Tuesday. "The Office will continue to be governed by a bipartisan independent outside board with ultimate decision-making authority. The Office is still expected to take in complaints of wrongdoing from the public. It will still investigate them thoroughly and independently. And the outside board will still decide whether or not evidence exists to warrant a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee."
"With the amendment adopted last night, the bipartisan, evenly-divided House Ethics Committee will now have oversight of the complaints office. But the Office is not controlled by the Committee, and I expect that oversight authority to be exercised solely to ensure the Office is properly following its rules and laws, just as any government entity should. I have made clear to the new Chair of the House Ethics Committee that it is not to interfere with the Office’s investigations or prevent it from doing its job. All members of Congress are required to earn the public’s trust every single day, and this House will hold members accountable to the people,” he continued.
On America's Newsroom, House Leader Kevin McCarthy also attempted to explain why the vote was pushed through today and how it will impact government accountability and transparency.