House Republicans, Under Fire, Back Down on Gutting Ethics Office
WASHINGTON — House Republicans, facing a storm of bipartisan criticism, including from President-elect Donald J. Trump, moved early Tuesday afternoon to reverse their plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. It was an embarrassing turnabout on the first day of business for the new Congress, a day when party leaders were hoping for a show of force to reverse policies of the Obama administration.
华盛顿——周二下午早些时候，面对包括候任总统唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)在内的两党成员铺天盖地的指责，众议院共和党议员着手取消限制国会道德办公室(Office of Congressional Ethics)权限的计划。在新一届国会开始办公的第一天，这是一个令人尴尬的转变。这一天，共和党领袖本希望展示逆转奥巴马政府多项政策的实力。
The reversal came less than 24 hours after House Republicans, meeting in a secret session, voted, over the objections of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, to eliminate the independent ethics office. It was created in 2008 in the aftermath of a series of scandals involving House lawmakers, including three who were sent to jail.
在这一逆转出现的不到24个小时前，众议院共和党议员举行秘密会议，并不顾众议院议长保罗·D·瑞安(Paul D. Ryan)的反对，投票决定对独立的道德办公室进行限制。该办公室是2008年出现一系列涉及联邦众议员的丑闻后成立的。其中三名议员入狱。
Republicans, led by Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, had sought to prevent the quasi-independent ethics office from taking up investigations that might involve criminal charges, and they wanted to grant lawmakers on the more powerful House Ethics Committee the right to shut down any of the inquiries. They also wanted to block the small staff at the Office of Congressional Ethics from speaking to the news media.
以弗吉尼亚州众议员罗伯特·W·古德拉特(Robert W. Goodlatte)为首的共和党人试图限制半独立的道德办公室开展可能涉及刑事指控的调查，并希望授予位列权力更大的众议院道德委员会(House Ethics Committee)的议员叫停任何这类调查的权利。他们还希望阻止国会道德办公室规模有限的工作人员向新闻媒体发声。
“It has damaged or destroyed a lot of political careers in this place, and it’s cost members of Congress millions of dollars to defend themselves against anonymous allegations,” Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, said on Tuesday, still defending the move.
But the resolve to curb the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics crumbled Tuesday morning, as hundreds of phone calls flooded lawmakers’ offices and both conservative and liberal ethics groups issued statements condemning the move. So did some Republican lawmakers, who said it was the wrong message to send to the public.
“It was a stumble,” Representative Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina, who himself was the subject of an ethics investigation while he served as governor in South Carolina. “Probably not the way you want to start out.”
Mr. Trump had weighed in himself, suggesting that the House should instead be focused on domestic policy priorities. In a pair of postings on Twitter, Mr. Trump called the Office of Congressional Ethics “unfair,” but he said turning attention to it now was a case of misplaced priorities. He appended the hashtag “DTS,” an apparent allusion to his promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Mr. Ryan and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, had made clear as of Monday that they were also opposed to the ethics office’s powers. On Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy said he broadly agreed with Mr. Trump’s message position, which seemed to focus more on the timing of taking up the ethics issue rather than the substance of the complaints about it.
“Those are the same arguments I made last night in conference,” he said, adding that he and Mr. Ryan did not have the power to simply tell other Republican members what to do.
“Welcome back,” he joked, referring to the start of the new session of Congress on Tuesday. Even at home, he said, “I usually don’t win what we watch on TV.”
Since it first started to take up cases in 2009, the Office of Congressional Ethics — which has a budget of just $1.4 million and a staff of nine, including five lawyers — has provoked criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, particularly lawmakers like former Representative Mel Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, and Representative Sam Graves, Republican of Missouri, who say it treated them unfairly during investigations.
自2009年首次开始受理案件以来，国会道德办公室——仅有140万美元（约合970万元人民币）的预算和九名员工，其中包括五名律师——引发了民主党人和共和党人的指责，尤其是前北卡罗来纳州民主党众议员梅尔·瓦特(Mel Watt)和密苏里州共和党众议员萨姆·格雷夫斯(Sam Graves)等议员。他们自称在调查期间受到了该办公室的不公正对待。