Congress is off to a predictably messy start to 2017. After a closed-door vote to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), Congress’s independent ethics watchdog late last night, House Republicans are saying outlook hazy, try again later. The full House of Representatives was supposed to vote on the amendment this morning, but after a huge wave of outrage, House Republicans decided (in an emergency conference meeting) to reverse course and abandoned the plan to gut the office.
Last night’s vote would have essentially ended the only independent, bi-partisan entity keeping track of ethics violations in the House. It would have put the OCE under the jurisdiction of Congress, which is essentially like letting kids be in charge of their own babysitter (there’s no rules!). And, unsurprisingly, the House of Representatives doesn’t have a great track record of holding itself accountable. The House Ethics Committee—which was in charge of ethics investigations before the independent OCE was established—took only five disciplinary actions in almost a decade. On the other hand, in the first five years of the OCE’s existence, the House ethics Committee took more than 20 disciplinary actions.
The vote predictably sparked outrage from many, including Democratic members of Congress and outside ethics groups. But members of Congress also reported that their offices were flooded with calls from constituents angry about the vote. President-elect Trump also criticized the timing of the vote, saying there are “so many other things of far greater importance!” But notably, Trump didn’t criticize the vote itself, adding that the ethics panel is “unfair.” House Republicans’ reversal doesn’t change the fact that they were so quick to obstruct transparency and undermine public trust. But it does prove that resistance works.
Priorities. What are the priorities for Republicans in Congress this year? Hint: not helping the Americans who elected them. We’ve already seen them trying to get away with hamstringing their own ethics oversight. And now, newly re-elected Speaker Paul D. Ryan and his congressional Republicans are focusing on cutting taxes for corporations, gutting environmental standards, and repealing the Affordable Care Act—which would eliminate health insurance coverage for millions of Americans.
Speaking of the ACA… Trump and his fellow Republicans are putting repealing the Affordable Care Act first on the chopping block, which of course, would cause millions of people to lose their insurance and cause chaos in insurance markets. (Even if they introduce a repeal and delay bill.) Tomorrow, President Obama and congressional Democrats will hold a rally on the hill about the importance of the ACA. And, never one to be outdone, Vice President-elect Mike Pence will also be descending upon the Hill tomorrow to lead the repeal charge. Are you one of the millions of people covered under the ACA? Join the fight against GOP efforts to repeal the law! Share your story.
UNDER THE RADAR
“The most beautiful people.” How Trump described Dubai businessman Hussain Sajwani and his family at his New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago. Sajwani is the chairman of Damac Properties, the company that built the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai. Add this to the long list of Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. Need a refresher on those? Here’s a short list of some of his most egregious conflicts.
#ResistSessions. Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), will begin his Senate confirmation hearings next week. Session’s is only a committee vote and a simple majority vote in the Senate away from being the country’s next Attorney General—which bad news for Americans everywhere because of his history of racism, leniency towards corruption, anti-immigrant beliefs, and anti-women voting record. Here’s a video on what you need to know about Sessions and here’s how to resist his confirmation.
“The right to disconnect.” France just passed a new law aimed at protecting workers’ work life balance. The brand new law requires companies to allow employees to disconnect from their “electronic leashes” i.e. work email and smartphones outside of normal business hours. This new law is another step forward for organized labor. And some companies have already begun the practice of shutting down email systems after hours in keeping with France’s 35-hour workweek, setting an example of healthy labor conditions worldwide.