Moulton, Warren Condemn GOP’s Sneak Attack on Congressional Ethics Office

House Republicans gutted the independent watchdog without any notice.

Photo via AP

Rep. Bob Goodlatte. Photo via AP

Updated 12:15 p.m.: The House GOP abandoned the effort to gut the office today after critics panned the move and president-elect Donald Trump tweeted comments critical of the Republicans’ priorities.

Without any notice or debate and just hours before the new Congress was set to be sworn in, House Republican gutted the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, formed in 2008 following a rash of corruption scandals.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia announced late Monday night that the House GOP had approved changes that would effectively cripple the OCE. In its place, Republicans proposed an Office of Congressional Complaint Review overseen by a House Ethics Committee comprised of party members and expressly forbidden from releasing information to the public.

“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. It also improves upon due process rights for individuals under investigation, as well as witnesses called to testify,” Goodlatte said in a statement. “The OCE has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work.”

The full, Republican-controlled House is expected to vote on the changes Tuesday. Members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation lambasted the House GOP’s late-night raid on the OCE. In an appearance on CNN’s New Day, Rep. Seth Moulton called the move “frightening” and said House Republicans “completely blindsided us.”

“It’s absolutely ridiculous. Is there any American out there who thinks Congress is too ethical? Donald Trump and Republicans said they were going to ‘drain the swamp,’ and the very first thing they do is dismantle our outside ethics watchdog,” Moulton said. “I guess what they have on their agenda might run into trouble with ethics. I don’t know what else could be the reason.”

In a Facebook post, Sen. Elizabeth Warren took aim at President-Elect Donald Trump’s “cabinet of billionaires and CEOs,” as well as his myriad conflicts of interest.

“Tell us, Republicans: Who, exactly, thinks that the problem with Washington is that we have too many rules requiring the government to act ethically?” Warren said.