Three Ohio Republicans voted against divisive ethics proposal

Posted at 12:05 AM, Jan 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-04 10:57:55-05

CINCINNATI -- Three of Ohio’s House Republican representatives confirmed Tuesday that they voted against party lines on a controversial proposal to bring the Office of Congressional Ethics under congressional authority.

The Republican-fronted Goodlatte proposal, which detractors said would have hampered the office’s intended role as a watchdog on congress members, faced severe opposition from Democrats, outside ethics organizations and President-Elect Donald Trump -- as well as from Ohio Reps. Steve Chabot, Brad Wenstrup and Warren Davidson.

"I was one of the few Republicans who voted with the Democratic majority to create the Office of Congressional Ethics back in 2008, and I believe it serves an important purpose,” Rep. Chabot said in a statement.

The vote was secret, but spokespersons for Rep. Wenstrup and Rep. Davidson confirmed that the two Ohio representatives voted against the proposal.

"Since the Office of Congressional Ethics serves an important oversight function, I believe it would beneficial to conduct a thorough review and evaluation to ensure its doing its job fairly," Rep. Wenstrup said. "However, any review must be an open, bipartisan conversation that includes the American people.”

Other House Republicans voted 119-74 in favor of the Goodlatte proposal in a closed-doors meeting Monday night -- then pulled it abruptly Tuesday as criticism poured in from multiple sources, including the president-elect’s prolific Twitter account.

"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. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!” Trump wrote in two consecutive tweets.

Advocates for the proposal, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, said that the Office of Congressional Ethics had been open to abuse because it allows complainants to lodge anonymous reports of congressional misconduct. Members of both parties have complained that panel often takes up matters based on partisan accusations from outside groups with political motivations, and once they launch a probe members have to mount expensive defense campaigns.

Chabot agreed in a statement that the office is an imperfect entity, but said changes should be made in a more transparent setting.

“There are some reforms that could be made to the manner in which the Office functions and operates,” Rep. Chabot wrote. "But I think those changes should be made in an open, bipartisan process, rather than behind closed doors.”