U.S. House Republicans weaken ethics body
as they return to Congress
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[January 03, 2017]
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the
U.S. House of Representatives agreed on Monday to weaken a nonpartisan
ethics watchdog on the grounds it had grown too intrusive, prompting
Democrats to charge they were scaling back independent oversight ahead
of a new legislative session.
As they returned to Washington following a holiday break, House
Republicans voted in a closed-door meeting to place the Office of
Congressional Ethics under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee,
giving lawmakers greater control over an independent body charged with
investigating their behavior.
The measure was added to a broader rules package that is expected to
pass when the House formally convenes on Tuesday.
The ethics office was created in 2008 following several corruption
scandals, but some lawmakers have charged in recent years that it has
been too quick to investigate complaints lodged by outside partisan
The body will now have to deliver its reports to lawmakers, rather than
releasing them directly to the public, according to a summary released
by Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte. It will be renamed the
Office of Congressional Complaint Review.
"The OCE has a serious and important role in the House, and this
amendment does nothing to impede their work," said Goodlatte, who
sponsored the measure.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who created the ethics office
while House speaker following complaints that lawmakers were unable to
effectively police themselves, said Republicans were eliminating the
only independent body charged with monitoring their actions.
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The U.S. Capitol Building is lit at sunset in Washington, U.S.,
December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
"Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican
Congress," Pelosi said in a statement.
The move comes as Republicans who control both chambers of Congress
are poised to repeal major portions of President Barack Obama's
health and environmental regulations and enact a conservative agenda
once Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan.
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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