Politics

Trump Criticizes House GOP on Ethics Office Overhaul

President-elect says party should focus on tax reform, Obamacare

President-elected Donald Trump questioned the priorities of House Republcians after they voted to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Donald Trump on Tuesday chastised the more than 100 House Republicans who voted Monday night to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, marking the first clash between the president-elect and his party’s House caucus.

“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,” Trump tweeted in a multipart message, following on, “........may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS”.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/816298944456232960

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/816300003442495488

His post came about 12 hours after House Republicans green-lighted a major overhaul of the eight-year-old ethics office, which investigates wrongdoing by House members.

The rules change by House Judiciary Committee Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., which was adopted 119-74, would place the office under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee. The move will hinder its ability to act on anonymous tips and disclose wrongdoing to the public.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Tuesday he agrees with Trump that now is not the best time to overhaul the ethics office, but that it is moving forward because members voted to support the changes. “Any time you want to deal with reforms is probably best in a bipartisan manner,“McCarthy said.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan said in a statement Tuesday that many members have wanted to see the Office of Congressional Ethics be reformed, adding the independent agency would still investigate members thoroughly.

“I have made clear to the new chair of the House Ethics Committee that it is not to interfere with the Office’s investigations or prevent it from doing its job,” Ryan said. “All members of Congress are required to earn the public’s trust every single day, and this House will hold members accountable to the people.”

The rules change by House Judiciary Committee Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., which was adopted 119-74, would place the office under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee. The move will hinder its ability to act on anonymous tips and disclose wrongdoing to the public.

[House GOP Moves to Curb Independent Ethics Office]

The change was folded into a sweeping package of rules to be put before the full House on Tuesday, when the 115th Congress convenes.

The independent ethics office was created in 2008 to investigate ethics complaints filed by the public. It currently refers cases to the Ethics Committee. After 90 days, the committee is required to make certain reports public and publicly state how it will handle the case moving forward.

By basically removing an independent ethics-focused body from looking into potential missteps by members, the 119 House Republicans may have undercut Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” and crack down on inside deals and influence-peddling.

“The night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a Monday evening statement.

Pelosi herself used the “drain the swamp” phrase during floor debate in arguing for the creation of the ethics office.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.