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'So much for draining the swamp': Republicans take independence from independent ethics body

“Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress,” said Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

Image: Carolyn Kaster AP/Press Association Images

REPUBLICANS IN THE US House of Representatives have backed a proposal to take ethics oversight away from an independent group and give the authority to the lawmakers themselves.

The proposal by Republican congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia which would gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics – which already does not punish lawmakers – was approved 119-74.

House speaker Paul Ryan opposed changing ethics rules but legislators disregarded his leadership on the issue.

Goodlatte maintains that altering the ethics review process “strengthens the mission” of the office.

“It also improves upon due process rights for individuals under investigation, as well as witnesses called to testify. The (ethics office) has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work,” he said in a written statement Monday.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Minority Leader, voiced dismay.

“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.

“Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress,” she added in a statement.

“The amendment Republicans approved tonight would functionally destroy this office,” she added.

President-elect Donald Trump will have a Republican-led House and Senate, when he is sworn in January 20.

“Trump’s cabinet of billionaires & CEOs have ignored gov ethics rules & dragged their feet on FBI background checks & financial disclosure,” Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

“We all know the so-called House Ethics Committee is worthless for anything other than a whitewash — sweeping corruption under the rug.

“That’s why the independent Office of Congressional Ethics has been so important.

The OCE works to stop corruption and that’s why Speaker Ryan is cutting its authority. Speaker Ryan is giving a green light to congressional corruption.

The OCE was created in March 2008 after the cases of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., who served more than seven years in prison on bribery and other charges; as well as cases of former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who was charged in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and pleaded guilty to corruption charges and former Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., convicted on corruption in a separate case.

- © AFP, 2017

Read: Top Republican fears damage Trump could do to the environment

Read: What can we expect from the first 100 days of Trump?

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