While Donald Trump spent last week analyzing the ratings of the latest season of “The Apprentice” and calculating Jackie Evancho’s album sales, the GOP-controlled House began working on legislation as if President Obama had left office early.
On Monday, Virginia Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte announced House Republicans had voted in favor to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. The Office’s evisceration would now be part of a larger rules package, on which it would be voted the following day.
Established in 2008, the OCE is a non-partisan office which handles allegations of misconduct committed by members of the House.
The vote was not previously scheduled and came without warning. The vote took place in a closed door conference meeting, meaning there is no way to tell who voted in favor of it. However, House Leader Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stated they were against it.
President-elect Trump responded to the vote the following day on Twitter:
“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority.”
Some outlets misrepresented Trump’s tweet as a condemnation of the act itself… when it’s actually a denouncement of the timing.
Appearing on “Good Morning America,” Trump campaign manager and now counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, defended the GOP gutting of the OCE as part of “…a mandate there for them to make significant change.”
This isn’t draining the swamp, it’s installing an all you can eat buffet.
In response to the instant public backlash against the proposal, House Republicans removed the OCE provision on Tuesday.
“I can tell you the calls we’ve gotten in my district office and here in Washington surprised me, meaning the numbers of calls. People are just sick and tired,” North Carolina GOP Walter B. Jones told The Washington Post.
WaPo’s Robert Costa would tweet that House members told him calls from the public were the most important factor in getting the House to rescind the Amendment. Just two days later, the GOP would give you another reason to put your House Representative’s number on speed dial.
On Thursday, Paul Ryan announced the Obamacare repeal bill would also strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding. Ryan is likely referencing the same bill the House passed in January 2016, which was later vetoed by President Obama.
The GOP has been seeking to strip the healthcare organization of federal funding for years, citing its providing of abortion services. However, not a single penny of federal money supports the procedure due to the Hyde Amendment.
The GOP decision to defund Planned Parenthood will negatively affect the preventative healthcare of literally millions of Americans.
A look at the 2014-2015 Planned Parenthood annual report shows the organization assisted in:
- 4,218,149 sexually transmitted infection tests and treatments
- 2,945,059 birth control information and services
- 635,342 pap tests and breast exams
Planned Parenthood has reported nearly 350,000 young people have used their teen apps and over 425,000 have used their digital “decision-making tools for adults.” The group has had over 500,000 users interact with their Chat/Text program involving live health educators.
Our nation is currently at our lowest rate of abortions since 1971 (before the Roe v. Wade ruling), contributing factors to the decrease include increased coverage (thanks, Obamacare!) and accessibility to contraceptives.
If the GOP truly cared about maintaining and even lowering the nation’s abortion rate, they would simply amend Obamacare, rather than repeal, and continue funding Planned Parenthood.
On the same day Ryan threatened funding for Planned Parenthood, House Republicans pulled a George A. Romero and resuscitated the Holman Rule.
The 1876 rule (way to stay current, guys) allows a member of Congress to cut the pay of individual government employees to $1.
“This is a big rule change inside there that allows people to get at places they hadn’t before,” House Majority Leader McCarthy told reporters.
The reinstatement of the Holman Rule comes just weeks after the Trump transition team has requested individual names of Energy Department employees who worked on climate change and a list of names of State Department employees who worked on gender equality.
As the week ended, the Office of Government Ethics warned it may not have enough time to complete the background checks of Donald Trump’s Cabinet choices before their scheduled confirmations this week.
“This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews,” OGE director Walter Shaub, Jr. wrote to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings,” Shaub writes.
The hearings begin on Tuesday, starting with Alabama Sen Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.
It’s easy to get lost in Trump’s frivolous tweeting about ratings while awaiting his next tweet announcing a nuclear arms race, but it’s important we don’t lose sight of a Republican-controlled congress that no longer has the checks and balances of a Democratic president.
If we learned anything this week, we the voting public still have an incredible power to influence our representatives. We just have to make our voices heard.