In one of their first acts in the majority, House Republicans voted on January 9th, 2023 to try to gut the only independent internal watchdog working to enforce ethical standards in Congress: the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).
Common Cause and others fought to create this vital office in 2008, and since then, it has helped to clean up corruption on Capitol Hill and ensure that members of Congress play by the rules. But Republicans’ new rules package tried to drastically limit the OCE’s ability to hold House members accountable by:
- Making it needlessly harder to hire new staff.
- Imposing arbitrary term limits to oust three long-serving Democratic members and eliminate decades of institutional knowledge.
Thanks to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ swift action after the rules package passed – as well as an outpouring of calls and emails from Common Cause members – he was able to appoint new board members, ensuring that the OCE has a quorum and can continue to watchdog House members. But clearly, further action is needed in response to the Republican House majority’s efforts to weaken the OCE.
If these elected officials are able to completely obstruct or eliminate the office, members of Congress will get to play both judge and jury when investigating charges against their own colleagues. That means politicians could simply choose to look the other way – and expect their friends to do the same for them.
How does the CLEAN Act help?
The CLEAN Act makes an important change to protect and strengthen the OCE.
Currently, the OCE is not protected by any laws – instead, the House of Representatives must include it and set regulations for it in its rules package every two years. The bill would codify this office into law, protecting it from the whims of the House majority.
By passing the CLEAN Act, Congress can make a strong commitment to more accountable and honest lawmaking. You can read the previous version of the bill in full here.
How can I help?
To help us undo House Republicans’ outrageous step backwards, sign our petition: