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House GOP withdraws move to gut ethics watchdog after backlash

By Maryalice Parks,

House Republicans reversed plans to gut a Congressional ethics watchdog on Tuesday after a backlash that included criticism from President-elect Donald Trump over the timing of the move.

House Republicans voted late Monday night to dramatically restructure the Office of Congressional Ethics, putting the independent office under the jurisdiction and purview of a congressional committee.

Trump tweeted this morning that the timing of the change was poor and should not have been the first priority for the newly-elected Congress.

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it…their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!” he wrote.

He included a hashtag referring to one of his campaign slogans, “Drain the Swamp.” Trump ran largely on the idea of gutting perceived corruption in Washington.

GOP leadership, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Leader Kevin McCarthy, had spoken out against the provision.

McCarthy said this morning that he didn’t think it was the “right time” for a controversial change to the chamber’s independent ethics watchdog.

The OCE is currently a non-partisan office led by lawyers, former members of Congress and others, tasked with investigating alleged or possible wrongdoing by members of Congress. The group can publicly release its findings and call for the House Committee on Ethics to take action.

The amendment passed by House Republicans would have limited the OCE’s ability to act autonomously and make its investigations public.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized Monday’s vote in a statement, saying, “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

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