By: Rebecca Turco
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The U.S. House GOP quickly backpedaled on a controversial decision to gut an ethics watchdog that oversees Congress.
The representatives changed course Tuesday afternoon, after voting Monday night to restructure the Office of Congressional Ethics by putting the independent office under the control of a congressional committee.
The decision set off a firestorm of bipartisan backlash. Even the president-elect himself weighed in on Twitter.
“It would be a new low for Congress and for the Republican majority if this is the first action of the new Congress,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI).
“It speaks volumes that the first thing Republicans attempted to do in the new Congress was weaken ethical standards, and they only backed down once their efforts were exposed to public scrutiny,” U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said in a statement.
John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, was in agreement, saying: “Folding it under the House committee would have turned it to the era when peer pressure ruled the day.”
State Rep. Antonio Giarrusso (R-East Greenwich, West Greenwich) called to light the ethical parallels in Rhode Island: “On the day we’re changing the guard on our own ethics reform, they want to make it completely opposite on a national level.”
With Tuesday’s swearing in of the general assembly, Rhode Island’s Ethics Commission will once again have oversight over legislators. “It’s not about partisan,” added Giarrusso. “It’s about doing the right thing for the people.”
Giarrusso is among several state Republican lawmakers who were against the House GOP’s initial move to gut the ethical oversight.