The Swamp fights back

The Swamp – the Washington political establishment – or at least Republican members of Congress, have sprung a surprise by cutting the power of an independent ethics committee, despite opposition from Republican leaders. Donald Trump has criticised the move.

NY Times: With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office

House Republicans, overriding their top leaders, voted on Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

The House Republicans’ move would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries.

There was no advance notice or debate on the measure.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, spoke out during the meeting to oppose the measure, aides said on Monday night.

The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, where emboldened Republicans are ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests.

@TomFitton (president of the conservative Judicial Watch):

Poor way to begin draining the swamp, .

Trump tweeted:

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 may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!

While that is fairly soft criticism #DTS refers to Drain The Swamp.

The NY Times says that this is “a public break by Mr. Trump with rank-and-file Republicans”.

A statement from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics:

“Undermining the independence of the House’s Office of Congressional Ethics would create a serious risk to members of Congress, who rely on OCE for fair, nonpartisan investigations, and to the American people, who expect their representatives to meet their legal and ethical obligations.

As CREW and others noted in a bipartisan letter a few weeks ago, OCE is one of the outstanding ethics accomplishments of the House of Representatives, and it has played a critical role in seeing that the congressional ethics process is no longer viewed as merely a means to sweep problems under the rug.

If the 115th Congress begins with rules amendments undermining OCE, it is setting itself up to be dogged by scandals and ethics issues for years and is returning the House to dark days when ethics violations were rampant and far too often tolerated.”

From Wikipedia:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-partisan legal watchdog group working to force our government officials to behave responsibly and ethically. CREW’s mission is to use the legal system to expose government officials who betray the public interest by serving special interests.”

The Trump campaign for the presidency threatened to tear the Republicans apart, but having ended up with more control (with Senate and House majorities plus a Republican president) it may be that some of them at least have already become intoxicated with that power, and want to cut oversight of their actions and ethics.

Trump may be challenged by these competing power bases of what should be allies.

This gutting of the the Office of Congressional Ethics is a bity of a smack in his face, if not in his credibility over his ‘Drain The Swamp’ catch cry.

Update – there seems to be a Republican back down:

NY Times: House Republicans Back Down on Bid to Gut Ethics Office

House Republicans, facing a storm of bipartisan criticism, including from President-elect Donald J. Trump, moved early Tuesday afternoon to reverse their plan to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics. It was an embarrassing turnabout on the first day of business for the new Congress, a day when party leaders were hoping for a show of force to reverse policies of the Obama administration.

The reversal came less than 24 hours after House Republicans, meeting in a secret session, voted, over the objections of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, to eliminate the independent ethics office.

The Swampists seems to have had their wings clipped.