Trump objects after GOP votes to gut ethics office

2017-01-03 19:35
(Evan Vucci, AP)

(Evan Vucci, AP)

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Washington - President-elect Donald Trump criticised House Republicans on Tuesday for making one of their first acts a vote to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, arguing that tax reform and health care should be higher priorities.

"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 may be, their number one act and priority," Trump asked over Twitter the morning after the surprise and secretive move by the House GOP.

"Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!" he added.

Operate independently

Trump's comments came after GOP House members voted behind closed doors on Monday to give lawmakers themselves ultimate control over the Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent body created in 2008 to investigate allegations of misconduct by lawmakers. The office was created after several bribery and corruption scandals sent members to prison.

The ethics change, which prompted a furious outcry from Democrats and government watchdog groups, is part of a rules package that the full House will vote on later on Tuesday.

Speaker Paul Ryan, who had argued against the unilateral rules change, issued a statement down playing the change and insisting that the OCE will operate independently though under the oversight of the member-only House Ethics Committee.

"All members of Congress are required to earn the public's trust every single day and this House will hold members accountable to the people," Ryan said.

Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, had pressed for a bipartisan approach at a later date, but rank-and-file Republicans defied their leadership.

First casualty

The 119-74 vote reflected the frustration of many lawmakers who have felt unfairly targeted by the OCE, but it was a setback for leadership caught off guard by the swift action.

Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, reacted angrily.

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


Read more on:    donald trump  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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