“The amendment builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics,” Goodlatte said in a statement.
Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, reacted angrily.
“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions,” the California lawmaker said in a statement. “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”
Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, said Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., should be ashamed of himself and his leadership team.
“We all know the so-called House Ethics Committee is worthless for anything other than a whitewash – sweeping corruption under the rug. That’s why the independent Office of Congressional Ethics has been so important. The OCE works to stop corruption and that’s why Speaker Ryan is cutting its authority. Speaker Ryan is giving a green light to congressional corruption.”
The OCE was created in March 2008 after the cases of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., who served more than seven years in prison on bribery and other charges; as well as cases of former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who was charged in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and pleaded guilty to corruption charges and former Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., convicted on corruption in a separate case.