Our Opinion: An unethical vote gets slapped down

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Under fire from all directions, House Republicans Tuesday abandoned their shameful effort to effectively destroy an independent ethics panel. While that is cause for celebration, the attempt speaks to the dangerous sense of entitlement some Republicans are apparently carrying into the new term.

The House Republican Conference voted behind closed doors Monday to make the Office of Congressional Ethics "subject to oversight" by the House Ethics Committee, putting an end to its independence. The office was created in 2008 after three members of Congress were jailed on corruption charges.

The Republicans apparently thought their control of Washington following the November elections meant they should no longer have to deal with pesky ethics regulations, but they were quickly disabused of that notion. House Speaker Paul Ryan opposed the decision and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi led a Democratic assault upon it. House Republicans reported a barrage of criticism from angry constituents. Republican President-elect Donald Trump expressed his opposition via tweet. Mr. Trump's unhappiness seemed less about the act itself than the timing, questioning whether it had to be "their number one act and priority," but the president-elect's criticism was welcome. The plan was abandoned less than 24 hours after it was approved.

In observing that the independent office should not have been undermined, "as unfair as it may be," Mr. Trump echoed the complaints of the Republicans who were evidently chafing to take the long knives to the ethics watchdog. Criticism of the office as unfair is a cover for those who don't want to be constrained by a group that is not answerable to congressmen and is a stickler for ethical behavior. Criticism of the office attests to its importance in Washington and its value to voters.

This certainly won't be the last assault upon regulatory groups and agencies that not only serve as a watchdog of Congress but as a watchdog for the environment, the health care system, and the general economic interests of the poor, elderly and blue collar Americans. This assault triggered a quick response from the public and elected officials from both parties, and those behind it were sent running for cover. When the next assault comes, and the ones following it, that same response will be necessary.




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