“Today’s Republican Party is rife with ethical transgressions,” says Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist with Public Citizen. “And it is now trying to make it much harder to hold members of Congress accountable to the standards of decency we expect.”
Action: Call your legislators, and get your friends and family in red states to call theirs!
As soon as they can seat a speaker, the Republicans are aiming to take two primary actions to derail the OCE: impose term limits that would remove three longstanding Democrats from the OCE and defund the office so it can’t hire staff or change compensation. This means that any future investigations into unethical, and possibly unqualified Republicans—like Jan. 6th insurrection plotters sand serial liar George Santos, who may not pass citizenship requirements—could come to a grinding halt. We can’t let that happen.
Minimal script for Democratic representatives: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep. [___] to work to prevent any weakening of the Office of Congressional Ethics. I also want [him/her] to wait out the speaker election in DC as a united caucus in support of Hakeem Jeffries. Any alternative “unity candidate” would have to protect and even strengthen the OCE, as they have a lot of work to do.
Minimal script for Republican representatives: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep. [___] to know that I disagree with any weakening of the Office of Congressional Ethics. Members of the GOP have not proven themselves worthy of our trust, allowing those who helped plan the January 6th insurrection remain in office, along with being willing to seat George Santos, a serial liar who may not even meet constitutional rules for taking office. This party needs more oversight, not less.
- Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26): email, DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
- or Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24): email. DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
- Who is my rep./ senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com
More Infomation for those of us who missed the speaker’s election in high school civics class:
Update from Indivisible (National):
“In response to what a potential speaker would need to do to earn the votes of the MAGA extremist legislators holding out, one holdout said:
That’s right. These fanatics won’t agree to allow the House to do any of its work unless the new speaker agrees to commit to potentially shutting down the government and causing economic chaos.
If that sounds outright ludicrous to you, it does to us too! Who could have predicted this level of dysfunction and sabotage? Oh, that’s right, we did!“
As soon as a speaker is elected, the GOP will move to change the rules to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). Meanwhile, all work is suspended, including for those who work on sensitive issues in the House intelligence, armed services, and foreign affairs committees.
(Time) “The OCE investigates violations of any law, rule, regulation, or standard of conduct by members, officers, and employees of the House of Representatives. It is tasked with conducting a preliminary investigation and making recommendations to the House Ethics Committee on whether to investigate further. For example, any inquiry into George Santos’ willful, and possibly illegal, deception, would likely go though this office. Like he may not even qualify as a legislator due to citizenship issues.
The House Republican Rules package currently has two harmful provisions designed to gut the only independent ethics watchdog in Congress. First, it creates arbitrary term limits that’d essentially remove three long-standing Democrats from OCE. Second, House Republicans want to effectively defund the OCE so it can’t hire new staff or change their compensation. These changes would undermine, demoralize, and be a serious impediment to stopping corruption in Congress. As a result, everyday Americans would pay the price.
McCarthy’s proposal would require OCE to hire its staff for the 118th Congress within 30 days of the resolution’s adoption, a requirement that sources familiar with the process tell TIME would make it exceedingly difficult for the office to have the resources it needs to conduct its investigations, given how long it takes to hire candidates for roles in the federal government. The proposal would also block OCE from hiring new employees over the next two years if someone leaves their position, sources say.
“Republicans get to take control of the House, and on their first day in Congress, they are not trying to take a hammer to the OCE—they’re being a little smarter about it—but they’re taking a scalpel to it,” a Hill source familiar with the ethics process tells TIME.
The resolution would also impose eight-year term limits for members of OCE’s eight-member board, which is composed of four Democrats and four Republicans. The move would result in three of the four Democrats being forced to vacate their seats effective immediately. While the new Democratic leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, would be able to appoint replacements, the changes could still significantly slow down the panel’s work and zap it of valuable institutional knowledge.
“This could easily kill the only body that’s investigating ethical issues in Congress,” says Kedric Payne with the Campaign Legal Center. “There’s no investigations in the Senate. And the only investigations that happen in the House of any significance are done by the OCE.”
“This is a very smart way to do it,” adds Payne, a former OCE deputy chief counsel. “Because it looks as though the office still lives, but, in fact, it doesn’t.”
This isn’t the first time Republicans have tried to dismantle the Congress’s independent ethics panel. In 2017, the House Republican Conference took steps to curtail the power of the OCE, but the proposal was opposed by then-Speaker Paul Ryan and even McCarthy.
This time around, circumstances have changed. A handful of ultra-conservative lawmakers, including Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, have vowed to vote against McCarthy for speaker. With the Republicans’ slim majority, the California legislator can only afford four defections.
Some of the defectors also happen to be among the lawmakers who stand to benefit the most from a castrated OCE. Last month, more than 30 former members of Congress of both parties requested the ethics panel to investigate the lawmakers who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021 attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, a move that increases the spotlight on OCE and which investigations it chooses to pursue in the new Congress.
The OCE was also expected to investigate George Santos, the Republican Congressman-elect from New York who appears to have fabricated large swaths of his biography, including his employment history, his educational credentials, and even the circumstances of his mother’s death.”
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