Boehner and Pelosi, above, are responsible for filling two OCE vacancies each, with each other’s consent, and must also reauthorize the chairman, co-chairman and alternate members for the 113th Congress.
Time is dwindling for House leaders to find and appoint candidates to fill at least four impending openings on the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics before year’s end so its investigative work can continue uninterrupted.
The vacancies, combined with House Republicans’ delay appointing a House Ethics Committee chairman for the next Congress after the heads of other panels were announced, has government-accountability groups worried that ethics issues may be marginalized.
“The election showed that the American people really care about ethics, but we all know that members of Congress don’t. The only way they’re going to do something is if they’re pushed,” said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
A bipartisan coalition of government watchdog groups is gathering on the Hill on Wednesday to highlight the ticking clock and urge leadership to move. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are responsible for filling two OCE vacancies each, with each other’s consent, and must also reauthorize the chairman, co-chairman and alternate members for the 113th Congress.
“Pelosi has offered us her assurances that she is going to fulfill her part . . . but when we get to Boehner there has been absolutely no response,” Craig Holman of Public Citizen said. “We need to get Boehner involved in this process.”
“Practically speaking, they are late. There are a lot of things on their plate, but it’s not like it’s a surprise that these appointments are required,” Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch said.
Though Boehner and Pelosi representatives both confirmed their commitment to the outside ethics office, neither offered specifics about the hiring process or whether it is under way.
“The Speaker intends to retain the Office of Congressional Ethics for the 113th Congress and to appoint an Ethics chair in a timely fashion,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel wrote in an email.
“House Democrats are firmly committed to the continuation of the OCE and replacements will be named at the appropriate time,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill wrote in an email.
Democratic leadership has already announced that Rep. Linda T. Sánchez of California will again be ranking member on the Ethics Committee. The office of outgoing Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner, R-Ala., confirmed he is not interested in returning.
The bipartisan group gathering Wednesday includes Public Citizen, Judicial Watch, the Campaign Legal Center, CREW, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, the National Legal and Policy Center, the Sunlight Foundation, U.S. PIRG and Americans for Campaign Reform. The coalition will also send a letter to Boehner and Pelosi regarding the OCE vacancies.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.