After Paul Ryan was reelected as Speaker of the House yesterday he addressed his colleagues and said “we are not here to be. We are here to do.” It’s what the Republicans are doing in Congress that should concern us all.
What was the very first priority for House Republicans on the first day of the 115th Congress? Kill Obamacare? Strike down the Iran nuclear agreement? Tax cuts for corporations? Blast environmental regulations? Give themselves pay raises and go on a recess? Give Democrats wedgies? None of that.
The first thing they did was prove they have no intentions of actually draining the swamp and they held a secret vote at night to gut the semi-independent office that investigates House ethics.
Why would Republicans do something like this? That’s a rhetorical question. Now that they have the majority in the House, Senate, and a president-elect who believes conflicts of interests and ethics don’t apply to him, they figured it shouldn’t apply to them either. After all, their new leader celebrated New Year’s Eve at his golf club with business partners and guests who paid $575 a piece to party with The Donald (club members had a $50 discount).
Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy disagreed with the vote. Trump joined them and criticized it on his favorite platform, Twitter. They weren’t so much against getting rid of the ethics office as they were with the timing of the move. They’ll be fine with it if, and when, it comes later during this session. It will come later.
House members were bombarded with calls from an angry public. This maneuver, orchestrated by Virginian Republican Bob Goodlatte, would have prevented the office from investigating potentially criminal allegations, allowed lawmakers on the House Ethics Committee to shut down any O.C.E. investigation and, for good measure, gagged the office’s staff members in their dealings with the news media.
While Trump was tweeting faster than a speeding bullet criticizing the timing of the vote, his number one gaslighter Kellyanne Conway was on television saying House Republicans have a “mandate” to curb “overzealousness” over ethics. I don’t remember that issue being pressed on the campaign trail at all. Do you? Again, that was another rhetorical question. I think going out with Kellyanne Conway would resemble a mandate (Sorry. That was sexist. I couldn’t resist).
The Office of Congressional Ethics was created in 2008, by Democrats, after a series of bribery and corruption scandals slammed both parties and sent three House members to jail. Four of the Republicans who joined the Goodlatte gang have previously been investigated by the office.
After the quick outrage the GOP did a huge pivot and dropped it and the issue has gone back to the House to be “studied.” What they’re really doing is studying the best time to whip it out again. Probably sneak it into a bill honoring veterans or a Kentucky race horse. Who knows.
This also shows that as soon as Trump breaks the law and violates his presidential oath, probably on January 21, that this House will have little concern of holding him accountable.
Kellyanne Conway will tell you that’s a mandate.
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