4 Jan 2017

New Republican Congress reverses ethics move after outcry

7:51 am on 4 January 2017

US Republicans are to drop a plan to gut the independent body that investigates political misconduct, after heavy criticism, including from President-elect Donald Trump.

United States President-elect Donald Trump

United States President-elect Donald Trump Photo: AFP

Mr Trump had criticised Republicans after they voted to strip the Office of Congressional Ethics of its independence.

"Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!" Mr Trump said in a tweet.

The proposal was dropped in an emergency meeting at the new Congress, unnamed lawmakers told the US media.

Mr Trump made cleaning up corruption in Washington a key theme of his campaign, and he ended his tweet with "#DTS", an acronym for "drain the swamp".

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had argued unsuccessfully against the vote but on Tuesday he defended the proposal.

"I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the Office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress," he said.

Under the change:

* The watchdog would no longer be independent.

* Lawmakers would vote to determine if a fellow member of congress has broken the law.

* The body would be prevented from receiving anonymous tips.

* Accusations against lawmakers would not be made public, as they are currently.

Senior Republican Congressmen Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy had urged their party to seek bipartisan support and to wait to push for the change later.

But Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte submitted the proposal against the advice of his own party's leaders.

Mr Trump's tweets about the ethics committee came on a busy morning for the president-elect's Twitter account.

He also warned North Korea about its nuclear ambitions, attacked Obamacare costs and sparked a row with General Motors over its manufacturing operation in Mexico, which the car firm disputes.


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