Donald Trump’s slogan “drain the swamp” has already become a bad joke, thanks to the many conflicts of interest the president-elect has created during his transition to the White House. Now his fellow Republicans are making the promise of a more ethical Washington even more ironic by eviscerating the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which was done in a closed-room vote without a roll call in the dead of a holiday Monday.
The initiative was spearheaded by Republican congressman Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Under the new rules, the OCE would no longer be an independent agency. Instead, it would answer to the House Ethics Committee, putting Congress in charge of policing itself. The House Ethics Committee would be able to end investigations at will. The OCE would no longer be able to take tips from anonymous whistleblowers or turn over evidence of criminal wrongdoing to law enforcement.
The move reportedly came over the objections of Speaker Paul Ryan. A full vote on the new rules is scheduled in the House for later today, which means they could be overturned, particularly as a backlash develops. But the message House Republicans are sending is clear: Donald Trump’s Washington will be as disdainful of ethical governance as the president-elect himself.