Monday night, in a U.S. House GOP conference meeting, Republicans voted 119-74 to essentially gut the independent power of the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Not 24 hours later, the same Republicans were reversing course, already weary of the scrutiny over the decision.
The decision, which had plenty of GOP detractors, would have paved the way for new rules for the 115th Congress. Conveniently, there was no official published record of the conference meeting vote, adding to the layers of mistrust this Congress is building before it ever starts working.
The rule changes never made it to the house floor, but it is the bold disregard for the American people and accountability to those people that is highlighted in this ill-conceived plan.
There is never a good time to sacrifice rules of ethics, but now more than ever, those in Washington should be doubling down on the pledge to do the right thing, not sending the opposite message.
The proposed changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics would have included a notable name change, to the Office of Congressional Complaint Review, removing the stress of being ethical by deleting the word altogether.
The failed proposal also specified the office can’t employee a spokesman, conveniently diminishing its ability to communicate to the American public. It would no longer be able to investigate anonymous tips or refer criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors without the House Ethics Committee’s approval.
Essentially, this would have meant no independence for the office, needing Congressional approval to accuse Congress or its members of unethical behavior. Would any of us ever be punished if those around us had to ask our permission to punish us for wrongdoing?
Congress should at all times be subject to the most intense scrutiny of the voters. Members don’t need protection from investigation or from having their misdeeds shared publicly. What they should do, is the same thing the rest of us are expected to do – act ethically and avoid such misdeeds.