(UPDATE) Following the uproar Tuesday morning over a private vote by House Republicans to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, the GOP conference voted to restore rules that have been in existence for the past eight years.
However, the PR damage has been substantial.
A spokesperson for Polk County Republican Dennis Ross says the GOP Representative opposed Monday night’s vote to gut the OCE, created in 2008 after several members of Congress were convicted of crimes and sent to jail. The office has the power to conduct investigations of House members and employees who have been accused of violating laws, rules or congressional norms.
“Rep. Ross opposes the change to the rules. Conference is meeting now in a special session. I suspect it will be stripped,” emailed Jodi Shockey, Ross’s communications director, late Tuesday morning to FloridaPolitics. As she predicted, the House Republicans reversed their vote shortly afterward.
The Florida Democratic Party said they wanted to know which Republicans did vote to support gutting the OCE.
Tuesday’s reversal came after President-elect Donald Trump tweeted his disapproval, as did Democrats and even the head of the conservative-leaning group Judicial Watch.
The House GOP vote on Monday night effectively killed the OCE, stripping it of its independence. It would have reported to the House Ethics committee, meaning that Congress would ultimately control the investigations of its own members.
The office would no longer take anonymous complaints and would not be authorized to make public statements or hire a “communications director or press spokesperson” to speak with news outlets. And it’s name would change from the Office of Congressional Ethics to the Office of Congressional Complaint Review.
Two members of the Florida Democratic Congressional delegation blasted the move earlier in the day.
“Shameful move by House GOP on first day of new Congress” tweeted Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor.
— US Rep Kathy Castor (@USRepKCastor) January 3, 2017
In a similar vein, the move was blasted by South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who tweeted: “Day 1 & @HouseGOP wants to gut the ethics process. Governing under a cloak of darkness is not how to #draintheswamp.”
— Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) January 3, 2017