The day before the new Congress was sworn in, the Republican
house members met behind closed doors, and took an unexpected
action, voting to eliminate the independence of the house ethics
investigative process. The GOP house leadership opposed the
move, but 60% of the Republican members voting (about 50
members were not present) defied the leadership and voted to
change the ethics committee accountability.
The reaction to this move was swift and overwhelmingly negative.
By the next day, and after GOP President-elect Donald Trump
weighed in with strong criticism of the move, the conservative
caucus changed its collective mind, and abandoned the effort.
The independence of the ethics committee investigations was
established by then Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2006,
and continued under GOP Speaker John Boehner in 2011. Many
members, Democratic and Republican, complained about it,
contending that it permitted anonymous ethics complaints
which denied them their civil rights, and called for reform.
With all the perks, pay and privileges given to lawmakers in
Washington, DC, this complaint has understandably found little
sympathy among voters both on the left and the right. Public
opinion regarding Congress remains at or near its all-time low,
and lack of accountability is part of the reason for it.
That U.S. house members felt that this was among their first
priorities in the new session indicates that many remain frankly
politically tone deaf following the recent election.
It is to the credit of the president-elect that he promptly and
unambiguously criticized the inappropriate action. It is also
somewhat ironical because so many had previously expressed
their hope that the Congress would act as a watchdog on the
new and controversial president --- and here was the
president-elect acting as a watchdog on the Congress.
New members, as well as house veterans, should take the
incident as importantly instructive. Voters want some significant
change and reform in Washington, and that should be the only
real priority in the new Congressional session. Preoccupation
with themselves and their prerogatives is not what voters in 2016
had in mind for U.S. house members this session of Congress.
The entire U.S. house will be up for re-election in less than two
years. The voters have already indicated they want results, and if
they don’t get them, they will express themselves forcefully once
Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.