After spending the first days of their majority in disarray, Speaker McCarthy and his MAGA members turned their attention to their next priority: shielding their GOP colleagues from accountability.
With election deniers and ethically-challenged lawmakers like George Santos making up a key portion of their caucus, it’s clear the GOP’s House leadership anticipates even more problematic behavior on the horizon.
What is the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE)?
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) was established in March of 2008 as the first-ever independent body to oversee the ethics of the House chamber.
The role of OCE as an independent and non-partisan office is to review allegations of misconduct filed against members of Congress, officers, and staff in the House of Representatives. Following their assessment, the OCE has the authority to refer Members and staff to the House Ethics Committee for discipline.
The OCE is composed of six board members and at least two alternates who serve four-year terms. Every time a new Congress is elected, the Speaker and the minority leader are allowed to appoint three board members and one alternate. Current House members, federal employees, and lobbyists are not eligible to serve on the board.
What are the GOP’s Plans for OCE?
With the majority in their hands, House Republicans have the authority to shape how the OCE is operated and staffed – and keep the office from prying into their own party’s unethical track record.
Under GOP’s newly proposed rules – a package of demands shaped by the MAGA extremists who threatened to derail McCarthy’s speakership — the OCE must hire its staff for the 118th Congress within 30 days of the resolution’s adoption with the approval of the office’s governing board.
Why such a strict deadline? The answer lies in another clause hidden within the rules package, which enforces term limits on members of the governing board – a change that automatically ousts the three Democratic appointees.
Although minority leader Hakeem Jefferies will have the opportunity to appoint new board members in the following month, the House GOP is clearly aiming to sideline the work of the OCE by obstructing their ability to hire staff.
There is certainly no good reason to make it easier for members to get away with ethics violations, which only invites bad behavior. It sends a clear message that the MAGA House is more interested in sweeping any corruption amongst their ranks under the rug and performing political stunts against the Biden administration than they are doing anything constructive on behalf of the American people.”
KYLE HERRIG, PRESIDENT OF ACCOUNTABLE.US
Who is the GOP protecting?
In addition to covering up their ties to January 6th, McCarthy’s rush to gut the OCE shows his party is expecting a new wave of corruption allegations and ethics violations from their MAGA colleagues.
Just last month, the ethics panel received a request from a bipartisan group of over 30 former members of Congress of both parties to investigate the sitting lawmakers linked to the seditious attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election – including House GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.)
Meanwhile, the OCE is also set to investigate George Santos, a freshman Republican congressman who appears to have made false biographical claims, filed inaccurate financial disclosures, and failed to disclose his criminal background while campaigning for the seat.
A.US recently filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics requesting an investigation into Santo’s possible violation of the House’s Code of Official Conduct. Read it here.