Today’s events have put a spotlight on congressional ethics.
The same day that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure one if its most senior members over ethics violations, it also heard entreaties from 10 reform groups, including Public Citizen, to maintain an important ethics safeguard in the House: the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).
The events highlight a broader drama unfolding in Congress. Despite some shortcomings, the OCE is vastly improving compliance to the ethics rules in Congress – and for that reason the OCE is coming under attack. The agency is in danger of being critically weakened, or even eliminated, when the new Republican majority rewrites the House ethics rules on Jan. 5.
A new Public Citizen analysis (pdf) shows a marked increase in activity by the House ethics committee in just the past two years. This activity stems in large part from the good work of the OCE, and that is why some in Congress want to shut it down.
Today’s Flickr photo
Tubo estaciones. Flickr photo by Cristina V.
If you read one thing today . . .
Give Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minn.) some credit: She put her money where her mouth was in not requesting any earmarks during this last Congress. The rest of her Tea Party Caucus? Not so much. Reid Wilson in the National Journal’s Hotline On Call blog says that members of the Tea Party Caucus requested more than $1 billion in earmarks during the 2010 fiscal year. Hotline’s review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste found that the “52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150.” Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) is the earmark king, having requested funding either solely or as a co-sponsor for 88 projects at a cost of $100.5 million. Rehberg’s response to the Hotline piece succeeds in completely avoiding the subject of his earmark addiction.
“It’s easy to be a member of the TEA Party Caucus because, like them, I agree that we’re Taxed Enough Already and we’ve got to balance the budget by cutting spending instead of raising taxes. Deficit spending is not new, but the unprecedented rate of spending in Congress is,” Rehberg said in a statement emailed by his office. “Montanans have tightened their belts, and it’s way past time for Congress to follow their lead. The TEA Party Caucus is about listening to concerned Americans who want to fundamentally change how Congress spends their tax dollars. On that, we’re in total agreement.”
Former Bush communications adviser Nicolle Wallace on why the GOP establishment won’t try and nip a Sarah Palin presidential bid at the bud.
“No one’s gonna cut her off at the legs,” Wallace claimed. “Only Sarah Palin can beat Sarah Palin, and let me tell you why no one will take her on. Her defenders and supporters, the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity — people I admire — are so powerful on the Right that nobody wants to anger any of those people, nobody wants to end up in the crosshairs, and nobody wants to look like they are unwilling to let her do her thing.”