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House GOP reversed course on gutting independent ethics panel after a storm of criticism

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UPDATE 12:17 p.m. EST: 

Following criticism from President-elect Donald Trump and a flood of critical news stories, House Republicans pulled back on proposed drastic changes to the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy offered a motion to restore the current OCE rules, POLITICO reports.

UPDATE 10:11 a.m. EST: Donald Trump condemned the move on Twitter.

Here's the rest of his response. 

However, Trump aide Kellyanne Conway defended the move.

House Republicans voted Monday night in favor of a proposal that would weaken their own ethics watchdog, according to Politico

The proposal, which was introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), would put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the very lawmakers it was designed to oversee. 


According to Politico, the proposal could essentially bar the office from considering any anonymous tips regarding the misconduct of lawmakers. 

Currently, the office operates as a non-partisan entity and investigates any misconduct alleged against lawmakers. 

However, if the office comes under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee, the proposal carries the appearance that those very lawmakers would have a hand in what happens. The proposal could prevent the office from releasing the findings from some of their investigations, Politico reports. 

Goodlatte argued that the change would strengthen the mission of the office and it would still have the power to review any potential violations. 


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


Democrats and Republicans have previously argued that the office takes up investigations based on tips from partisan groups, according to CNN. Both have complained that the probes often lead to expensive defense campaigns. 


However, outside ethics groups argue the office is the only real way to police members. 

"This opens the door for special interest corruption just as the new Congress considers taxes and major infrastructure spending," Chris Carson, spokesperson for League of Women Voters, told CNN.


Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fired back at GOP leaders in a statement Monday night, accusing them of taking actions to "weaken ethics and silence would-be whistleblowers." 


"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," Pelosi said in a statement. "Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress." 

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