"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Coming Attractions, Part II: North Carolina Was Just a Warm-up (Update; Update II)

Who needs ethics, anyway?

House Republicans have gutted an independent ethics watchdog, putting it under their own control, in a secret ballot hours before the new Congress convened for the first time.

The unheralded vote severely weakens the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which was set up after a lobbying scandal in 2008 to investigate corruption allegations against members of Congress. The move, led by the head of the House judiciary committee, defied the Republican congressional leadership and was reportedly supported by several legislators currently under OCE scrutiny.

The amendment was voted through by the House Republican conference over the New Year’s holiday with no prior notice or debate and inserted in a broad rules package the House will vote for on Tuesday. It turns the formerly independent OCE into the Office of Congressional Complaint Review, a subordinate body to the House Ethics Committee, which is currently run by the Republican majority and has a long history of overlooking charges of malfeasance by lawmakers.

The new body will not be able to receive anonymous tips from members of Congress or make its findings public.

The ineffectiveness of the House Ethics Committee was the major reason for the creation of the OCE to begin with. Take this as a pre-emptive move: the Republicans control Congress and are not going to waste any time cashing in.

I mean, look at who their shining example is going to be -- President Pay-for-Play.

Update: And it takes Kellyanne Conway, Trump's Obfuscator-in-Chief, to turn it into something really, truly surreal:

Conway, who ran Trump’s campaign and now serves as a senior advisor, complained Tuesday morning on “Today” that the Office of Congressional Ethics had been “overzealous” in investigating “consumer complaints” since its creation in 2008.

“If a constituent has a complaint, they can still lodge that complaint,” Conway said. “They just can’t do it anonymously.”

One can only conclude that Trump's staff is just as ignorant about the government as he is.

Update II: Well, that didn't last long. Via Joe.My.God.:
So much for Kellyanne Conway’s “mandate.” CNN reports:

House Republican leaders have pulled a proposal that would gut its independent ethics panel, amid widespread criticism of the plan, multiple lawmakers tell CNN. The decision comes less than two hours after President-elect Donald Trump criticized the timing of the vote, which was scheduled for the first day of the new congressional session.

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