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House Republicans decide to strip ethics change in emergency meeting

Congress ethics controversy

House Republicans agreed Tuesday to withdraw the rules change that would have stripped the chamber’s outside ethics watchdog of its independence and power after heavy public backlash and tweets of disapproval from President-elect Donald Trump.

Republican lawmakers agreed by unanimous consent in a closed-door emergency meeting Monday to strip the rules change from their overall rules package that the lower chamber is scheduled to vote on later in the day, according to a GOP aide.

This came as the new Congress was supposed to gavel in, and just two hours after Mr. Trump tweeted that congressional Republicans shouldn’t be wasting their time with a major ethics change.

On Monday night, a majority of Republicans voted to rename the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to the Office of Congressional Complaint Review. The House Ethics Committee--whose members are lawmakers--will now oversee that outside office’s work.

Under the change proposed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, the outside office would not have been able to investigate anonymous tips, it couldn’t have had a spokesperson and it would have been barred from releasing its findings to the public. Members of the House Ethics Committee would also have been able to stop the office’s investigations.

Why did House GOP vote to limit independent ethics office?

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, opposed the move, but Ryan defended the change in a statement before the emergency meeting Tuesday.

House Democrats created the independent watchdog after the lobbying scandal involving Jack Abramoff. 

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