Stung by instant and overwhelming outrage at the audacity of their plan to gut the oversight authority of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, House Republicans have reversed course.
But don’t think that Tuesday’s decision to maintain existing OCE rules means that House Republicans have suddenly embraced ethics and transparency.
The swamp remains. And it has some powerful defenders in DC.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump pledged that he would “drain the swamp” in Washington. The president-elect’s cabinet picks suggest he has experienced a change of heart with regard to his promise to crack down on special-interest corruption of the governing process. Instead of draining the swamp, Trump is stocking it with bottom feeders.
House Republicans are, for the most part, fine with that. They’ve been diving into the swamp for years, and they have never been excited about the drainage project.
House Speaker Paul Ryan—the Wall Street errand boy who regularly abandons conservative principles and ideals in order to support bank bailouts and crony capitalism, the self-absorbed careerist who willingly sacrifices the honor of the Republican Party in order to remake “the party of Lincoln” as “the party of Trump”—has a sordid history of abandoning the high road at the first hint that doing what’s right might impinge on his relentless pursuit of personal and partisan power.
In late December, Bloomberg Politics revealed that Ryan and his Republican colleagues were plotting to attack transparency by punishing members of the House who livestream activity on the House floor. Proposing fines and ethics inquiries as tools to prevent members from broadcasting reports of protests—such as last summer’s 25-hour sit-in by Democrats protesting the refusal of Ryan and Republican leaders to allow honest debate on gun policy—the speaker and his allies reportedly developed a plan that Bloomberg revealed could hit members with “a $500 fine through deductions to their paychecks for a first offense of using electronic photography or audio or visual recording, as well as for broadcasting from the chamber’s floor. A $2,500 fine would be leveled for the next such offense and each subsequent violation.”