“Ethics” isn’t usually a word you hear in a discussion about the working of the government, but yes indeed, our government has an Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

There’s no shortage of headlines that House Republicans voted on Monday to “eviscerate” the OCE. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) claimed Republicans had “eliminated” the oversight body, which she claimed was a violation of Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp.”

Even Trump expressed outrage at the timing of it all. “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! #DTS,” Trump said over two consecutive tweets.

As Breitbart reports however, the story qualifies as “fake news,” and the fact that it’s being repeated by so many outlets does not make the it any less fake.

First of all, the change — voted on by Republicans on Monday as part of their larger rules package — has nothing to do with Trump. The House sets its own rules, and it would actually be an encroachment on the separation of powers for Trump to tell it to do otherwise. Furthermore, Republicans have been in control of the House since 2011 and have left the OCE alone.

What Republicans actually did was address two lingering criticisms of the OCE, which was created by Pelosi’s Democrats after they took the House in 2006 (and before she undermined her own promises to “drain the swamp” by taking advantage of her position to buy Visa stock, while softening regulation on credit card companies).

But regardless, the changes do not “eliminate” the OCE, nor do they “gut” it. Moreover, criticism of the OCE has been bipartisan (though the case against it has not been clear-cut).

Does that sound like “gutting” an agency to you, or just reforming it?

However, shortly after Trump’s tweets appeared, The Hill reported that House Republicans abruptly withdrew a proposal to weaken an independent ethics watchdog on Tuesday, in a rocky start to the new Congress.

The 115th session hadn’t even formally gaveled in before House GOP leaders held an emergency conference meeting to discuss blowback against the party’s vote to gut {there it is again…GUT) the chamber’s independent ethics watchdog.

The reversal of course came hours after President-elect Donald Trump issued a series of tweets questioning the timing of the changes, which would put the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) under oversight of the House Ethics Committee.

Interesting how quickly the House backed down. Not sure what that means for the long haul.

So does this qualify as fake news becoming real news? Or since the issue has gone away, does it matter? If a fake news story falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]


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