Office of Congressional Ethics

THE ISSUE

WHY IT MATTERS

The 115th Congress changing operating rules of the House may affect hundreds of young professionals who work in or with government. The rules will expire on January 3, 2019 after the 2018 midterm elections. Midterm election turnout tends to be low, especially with young voters, but a controversial Congress could possibly change that. Hillary Clinton’s underperformance with young voters was a major key to Trump’s victory. The under-30 demographics’ level of political participation could potentially be a determining factor of policy for the next few years. The social media outcry affecting the decision on whether or not to keep the Office of Congressional Ethics demonstrated young American’s ability to affect the political discourse.

  • “Bye Felicia!”

    • Conduct:  The OCE has been accused of leaking information to the press to damage targets, lack of due process, and discouraging targets from receiving legal representation
    • Creating Distinction:  Chairman of the House Committee Judiciary Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) argued the move would further define the role of the Congressional Ethics Committee versus the Committee of Ethics
    • Transparency:  Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) says the change will bring more transparency to the probing process
    • Efficiency:  OCE’s process is highly time-consuming and recommendations are taken by the Ethics Committee ~3% of the time. Re-haul of the committee may streamline the process
  • Don’t Go Changing

    • Accountability:  Eliminating more oversight on ethics could create a greater possibility for corruption in Washington
    • Confidence:  Eliminating an ethics body from Congress after a controversial year in American politics may undermine the public’s confidence in Congress

     

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • In less than 24 hours of the measure, public outcry and a tweeted message from President-elect Trump caused House Republicans to reverse course and keep the office in place
  • Some members of Congress, such as Steven King (R-Iowa) say they are still going to press for change in the OCE

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

  • How the saga between House Republicans and President-elect Trump signals the next four years of governance will go.
  • What does the public and press outcry say about the power of individual citizens in our democracy?
  • How will ethics will be monitored and governed in Washington?