On the eve of the 115th Congress, House Republicans have voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics – an independent ethics watchdog created in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. The proposal creates, instead, a new “Office of Congressional Complaint Review” within the House Ethics Committee, giving lawmakers themselves more control over internal ethics inquiries. Early reports suggest the new office won’t be able to release information to the public, have a communications spokesperson, consider anonymous tips against lawmakers, or even communicate with law enforcement unless the House Ethics Committee approves.
The proposed change will be included in a package of new House Rules governing the incoming Congress, which is scheduled for a vote by the full House tomorrow afternoon.
UPDATE: After a swift and overwhelming blowback from the public, the plan was scuttled. Issue One’s press release provides the reformers’ mantra for all of the challenges on the horizon: Victory, then Vigilance.