“House Republicans pass ethics changes that Democrats say would hamper probes”


The House on Monday passed a rules package that included changes to how ethics-related complaints about members of Congress are handled.

According to a summary of the GOP’s proposed rules changes released last week, the package imposes term limits of eight years for the eight board members of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent body established in 2008 that investigates complaints about sitting members of Congress. Any board members who have exceeded those term limits would be removed.

The rules package also requires the OCE board to appoint staff within 30 calendar days, and that the hiring and compensation of those staff members would need to be approved by at least four board members.

Democrats and liberal groups decried the proposed changes, saying they would hobble the way the OCE functions.

This is a very smart way to do it,” Kedric Payne of the Campaign Legal Center, a former OCE deputy chief counsel, told Time last week. “Because it looks as though the office still lives, but in fact it doesn’t.”

Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist with the liberal think tank Public Citizen, criticized the first provision as a way for Republicans to remove long-standing Democrats from the OCE board.

The second is to make it difficult for OCE to staff its office,” Holman said in a statement. “These are measures that will render the ethics office ineffectual and which no Member, from either party, should support.

Aaron Scherb, senior director of legislative affairs at the nonpartisan watchdog Common Cause, said Monday the changes would “handcuff” and “significantly weaken” the OCE.

“After showing America how not to pick a Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy and his team are now showing America how not to design the Rules of the House,” Rep. Jamie Raskin said in a statement Monday that panned the rules package, including the components that he said would “undercut” the independent ethics office.

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