House Republicans on Monday night voted 119-74 to eviscerate Congress’ outside ethics watchdog and put it under the control of the very same lawmakers it’s meant to be keeping in check. Under a proposal by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the Office of Congressional Ethics, set up in 2008 to investigate allegations of misconduct against lawmakers, will be controlled by the House Ethics Committee. Republicans voted in favor of the change Monday night without so much as a debate beforehand. Goodlatte said his proposal “builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics.” Democrats and watchdog groups reacted with alarm to the surprise move. “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,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement released after the vote. “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.” Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, lambasted the move, saying the House Ethics Committee—the body to be tasked with fighting corruption—is known for “sweeping corruption under the rug,” not rooting out corruption. The full House of Representatives will vote on the rule as part of a larger package to be considered Tuesday.
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