Flooded with phone calls from voters, House GOP drops effort to gut ethics panel

A North Carolina Republican said he got a “tremendous number of calls.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. discusses the move by House Republicans to eviscerate the independent Office of Government Ethics, during a network television interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. McCarthy voted against the amendment but defended the overall effort by his caucus. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. discusses the move by House Republicans to eviscerate the independent Office of Government Ethics, during a network television interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. McCarthy voted against the amendment but defended the overall effort by his caucus. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The House GOP reversed course on Tuesday, deciding in a closed door meeting to abandon a plan approved less than 24 hours earlier to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

In an emergency conference meeting Tuesday morning, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) offered and the party approved a motion to restore the current OCE rules. The reversal came as members of Congress said their offices were flooded with calls from constituents angered by the decision.

“We have got just a tremendous number of calls to our office here and district offices concerned about this,” Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said, according to Bloomberg News. Jones’ Communications Director Allison Tucker told ThinkProgress the congressman also received numerous emails and messages on Facebook from constituents.

After the secret vote Monday night, many people urged others on Twitter to call their members of Congress to find out how they voted. Lists of Congressional office phone numbers were retweeted thousands of times.

Democratic lawmakers also joined the outcry against the vote and publicly blasting the decision. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared that “ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

President-elect Donald Trump also responded on Twitter Tuesday morning, saying that the OCE is “unfair” but questioning the House GOP’s timing. Nevertheless, media organizations credited “criticism” from Trump for the reversal.

Had the House not changed course, Congress would likely have adopted a rules package today that would have gutted OCE, the independent body created in 2008 to investigate corruption and misconduct by members of Congress. The office would have been renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and would be nestled under the House Ethics Committee. The new body would have been unable to make any of its findings public or to refer them to law enforcement without approval.

A number of House Republicans have indicated that they still support crippling OCE, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who said Tuesday that the move would guarantee due process for members of Congress.