Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Everything You Need To Know About Republican Priorities: Day One 2017 (w/ Update)

See the Updates below:

So, the Republicans have full control of Congress, and incoming control of the Presidency, and pretty soon control of the Supreme Court.

So what's the first thing they do in 2017? On the Monday before their session of Congress is set to start?

Do the Republicans repeal Obamacare as they've threatened to do for the past six years? No.

Do the Republicans appeal to their pro-fetus voting base by defunding Planned Parenthood or outlawing abortion? No.

Do the Republicans gleefully pass a resolution slashing taxes on the rich, such an easy no-brainer thing they've been itching to do to fulfill their Randian Drown-Government-in-Grover's-Bathtub dreams? No.

Do the Republicans do something sensible like issue a confirmation of Obama's sanctions on a Russian government that directly meddled in our own nation's elections? No.

This is the first thing the Republicans did in full awareness that they were in charge of the whole circus (via Washington Post):

Defying the wishes of their top leaders, House Republicans voted behind closed doors Monday night to rein in the independent ethics office created eight years ago in the wake of a series of embarrassing congressional scandals.
The 119-to-74 vote during a GOP conference meeting means that the House rules package expected to be adopted Tuesday, the first day of the 115th Congress, would rename the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) as the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee.
Under the proposed new rules, the office could not employ a spokesperson, investigate anonymous tips or refer criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors without the express consent of the Ethics Committee, which would gain the power to summarily end any OCE probe.

Not only does the Ethics Committee, made up of the Congresscritters that should be under scruntiny, gain control to shut down any inquiry, they can force people to shut up about it. Hush-hush, keep it on the down low, as it were.

The OCE was created in 2008 to address concerns that the Ethics Committee had been too timid in pursuing allegations of wrongdoing by House members. Under the current House ethics regime, the OCE is empowered to release a public report of its findings even if the Ethics Committee chooses not to take further action against a member.

That was back when Democrats were in charge of Congress (2006-2010), in response to a number of Congressional scandals - remember Jack Abramoff? remember Duke Cunningham? - that were exposing how intertwined with lobbyists that the then-GOP Congress had become (K Street Project, anyone?).

An OCE spokeswoman declined to comment Monday. Because Monday’s vote was taken in a private party meeting, there is no public tally of how members voted on the proposal.

That's because these Republicans know that what they're going to do is not going to sit too well with the general population. It will, of course, mean nothing to the Republican voters who keep sending these corrupt incumbents back to the WORST. CONGRESS. EVER, over and over and over, all because these incumbents say the pretty and angry things those Republican voters love to hear. They'll turn a blind eye to the corruption because it's THEIR Party being corrupt and they'll never believe a word of it.

This was their top priority, America. This Republican Congress is driven not to serve the needs of The People but to serve their own corruption.

To the 62 million Americans who voted for this party, this is what you gave us. With all the gerrymandering, with all the partisan appeals, with all the blind self-serving rage that drives you to back these crooks again and again because they're your crooks. This is all on you.

Update: Norm Ornstein, who worked on the creation of this office, is livid:

I have rarely been more angry or dismayed at the conduct of Congress than I was Monday night with the unconscionable, deplorable, underhanded move by Representative Bob Goodlatte to eviscerate and undermine the Office of Congressional Ethics. When House Speaker Paul Ryan and his counterpart Nancy Pelosi indicated weeks ago that they would continue OCE, the reform community—left and right—breathed a sigh of relief. Ryan, like his predecessor John Boehner, had seen the value to the integrity of the House of the office, which has been a stalwart of bipartisan and nonpartisan comity and independence. That makes this bait-and-switch action even more outrageous...
...For more than two decades, I had pushed to create an independent office, with involvement from former members who understand the nature of ethics in a political body, to be the first step in judging the conduct of members...
...But the years leading up to 2008 were anything but the best of times. First came the ethics wars, led by Newt Gingrich in the years leading up to 1994, using the ethics process for partisan leverage, criminalizing policy differences. After Gingrich became speaker, the backlash hit him directly, in a tit for tat. Under Speaker Dennis Hastert and his henchman Tom DeLay, it got worse. The nadir came in 2004 when an honest ethics panel, chaired by conservative Republican Joel Hefley of Colorado did its duty and recommended sanctions against DeLay for unethical conduct. Hastert responded by firing Hefley and removing two standup Republican members, Kenny Hulshof of Missouri and the late Steve LaTourette of Ohio...
When Democrats recaptured the House in 2006, the new speaker, Nancy Pelosi, began a process to clean the House, choosing Massachusetts Democrat Michael Capuano to lead the effort via a bipartisan select panel.  Through a lengthy, arduous process, with deep opposition from nearly all Republicans and real reluctance on the part of many Democrats, Capuano, working closely with me and Tom Mann and a small group of other reformers, pieced together a balanced plan that respected and preserved the constitutional requirement that the House be the judge of its own members, kept intact the ethics committee, but created a way to build larger credibility that the ethics process would be honest and fair whatever the political currents or partisan pressures...
The OCE members spanned the political spectrum, and had a thankless task, but responded just the way we had hoped—every decision they made was balanced, careful, and importantly, unanimous. The body took plenty of potshots, from aggrieved members of both parties, which have continued since its creation.  Reformers have feared at the beginning of each Congress since then that the leadership would try to remove it or weaken it. But Pelosi stood firm and Boehner, to his great credit, did so as well. Now this...
Rules packages get up or down votes, and are top priority for the majority leadership. They are not rejected by the majority party. The package is put together by the leadership; nothing gets included or excluded without the say-so of the speaker. Make no mistake about it: Despite public reports loudly proclaiming his opposition, it’s hard to believe this would have happened had Paul Ryan really tried to stop it. And do not believe Goodlatte’s risable assurance that this strengthens OCE. It has been muzzled and hamstrung, defenestrated and castrated...

Ornstein is rightly pissed. We all should be. But I doubt it. The Far Right is going to pretend they're the heroes of this Narrative and look away from the graft, kickbacks, and brutality of their own party. The rest of us are just going to have to suffer for their sins.

Revision to the Update 1/3/2017: Word now out that the Congresscritters' phone lines were jammed with angry people this morning and that the House GOP has decided to shelve the Goodlatte amendment (for now).

This is only encouraging in that the people are actually paying attention to this shit and holding their representatives accountable. But don't rest just yet: these crooks are going to try and kill every oversight in the rulebook. This is how the House Republicans roll, son...

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Trump came out against the timing of the measure, but sort of agreed with the substance. He's apparently obsessed with appearances. Which sort of makes me wonder how he thinks he appears to all of us.

-Doug in Oakland