Congress stumbles in its effort to abandon ethics

House Republicans Back Down on Bid to Gut Ethics Office

By Eric Lipton and Matt Flegenheimer
The New York Times, January 3, 2017

House Republicans, facing a storm of bipartisan criticism, including from President-elect Donald J. Trump, moved early Tuesday afternoon to reverse their plan to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics. It was an embarrassing turnabout on the first day of business for the new Congress, a day when party leaders were hoping for a show of force to reverse policies of the Obama administration.

The reversal came less than 24 hours after House Republicans, meeting in a secret session, voted, over the objections of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, to eliminate the independent ethics office.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

It is astonishing that a new Congress that has promised to reduce the government’s support of some of the most important social programs in our nation took as their first action, behind closed doors, approval of “their plan to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics.”

Although they rejected the advice of Speaker Paul Ryan not to do this, President-elect Trump also expressed his view through a tweet that this should not have been “their number one act and priority.” We can only speculate as to whether Trump and Ryan were truly concerned about preserving the function of the ethics committee or if it was just that they were concerned about the negative public image that might ensue. It did not take long for the expression of public outrage to convince them that they needed to reverse this action.

The damage is done. The Congressional majority has made a clear statement that they will not let ethics interfere with their attack on our social programs, beginning with the Affordable Care Act. It will be our duty to continue to express our outrage at the unethical implications of making health care less and less affordable for an ever growing number of residents, not to mention all of the other social injustices they intend to advance through their attack on existing programs.

Voters indicated that they wanted to clean up Congress. They must be perplexed that the first action was to try to throw Congressional ethics out the window. It should be a clarion call to all of us to watch very closely every other policy that this Congress attempts to enact.