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House ethics rules change reversed…by citizen phone calls

January 3rd, 2017, 3:32pm by Sam Wang

On the first day of the new Congress, the House Republican Conference reversed its proposed rules change, in which an independent ethics commission would have been weakened. However, a public onslaught of phone calls was able to stop the change.

Always remember: phone calls are most effective, far more than email. Look up your Congressman/woman here. Or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Representative or Senator.

Tags: House

12 Comments so far ↓

  • Leading Edge Boomer

    Constituent calls may have had something to do with the House Republicans’ reversal, but Trump did not. His complaint to them was that there were higher priorities, but called the OCE “unfair.” So Trump simply reminded them of the optics of preparing for criminal behavior as their first act. This will be back when it can be buried under other activities.

  • pechmerle

    On a related rules topic: Note that the “Senate rules coup” of 1/3/17 — supposedly utilizing a momentary majority of Demo senators before newly elected senators were sworn in, to approve Garland or a stealth Obama nominee as replacement for Scalia — did not happen. It was never politically realistic. But Sean Davis’s analysis also correctly showed why it couldn’t happen the way it was speculated. Most importantly, the Senate is a continuing body. It does not newly adopt its rules every two years. As Davis pointed out, that would mean there should have been scores of adoptions of rules at the first post-election sessions over the last two centuries — adoptions that did not occur because they were not necessary or appropriate.

    Many of you will be familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order – adapted from but not actually the rules of the House of Representatives – dating back to the late 19th century. Still in use by many public and private organizations today, though much adapted to particular settings.

    Few will be aware of the most persuasive commentary on the Senate rules, which is Riddick’s Senate Procedure. Promulgated and annotated by a Senate Parliamentarian — Floyd Riddick — and updated as needed by each successor Senate Parliamentarian. The Parliamentarian is an official adviser to the Senate on the interpretation of its rules. A full copy of the Riddick compilation doesn’t seem to be readily available online for free, but Riddick does state in several places that the Senate is a continuing body and does not need to re-adopt any of its rules unless a particular rule had an explicit expiration date stated within it.

    So – that idea of (rather fanciful) constitutional hardball came and went without incident.

    • Sam Wang

      Well, sometimes one pulls up a weed instead of a fish. C’est la guerre.

    • pechmerle

      To stick (briefly!) with your fishing analogy, there is a difference between coming up empty in a place where there are known to be fish, and going fishing in places where there are known not to be fish to begin with. I always thought the “Jan. 3 Senate coup” fell into the latter category.

      The Resistance needs to look for places where there are fish. Schumer’s recent comments that Demos will — after the GOP’s shameful refusal to even hold hearings on the Garland nomination — subject to any Trump nominee for the Scalia vacancy to strong scrutiny is a place where there may be a fish. As he and many others have said, that would only be giving the GOP a small taste of its own medicine in the treatment of Garland. It’s early now, and the Trump nominee is not definitely in view yet. So this is speculation, but I tend to think it will go more like the Clarence Thomas nomination than the Harold Carswell nomination. I.e., Trump will nominate somebody who gets a rough ride in the confirmation process, but ultimately is confirmed. And then the general public public mostly forgets about it rather quickly afterward.

      The Resistance definitely needs to search for “fishing holes” where either or both of creative tactics and rousing public outrage are to be found. But wasted thought and weakening of the will to resist can result if there are too many attempts to fish where they just ain’t.

  • Suvro

    I called Bob Goodlatte’s DC office number today – (202) 225-5431 – and immediately got through to a staffer.
    I was polite and told him I wanted him to record my dismay at this amendment and Rep. Goodlatte’s role in this.

    It may not mean much after the event, but it is my personal little activism. My house rep is Democrat Judy Chu.

  • LMB

    I’m afraid that Leading Edge Boomer is right, that it will be simply snuck in underneath other fights. I do wonder how much constituent phone calls made a difference. As a Californian, I wonder if the only calls that matter are ones to the few House Republicans in non-safe districts? What power do the tens of millions of us have who are in solidly Blue areas like N. California, especially if we have Democratic Congressional representatives? Given that my representatives and Senators already agree with me, what power do *I* have to influence policies which will affect me and my children — whether House ethics investigation rules, global warming and ACA legislation, starting with the upcoming odious Trump appointee confirmations?

    • LondonYoung

      Do this: use Ballotpedia to look up the name of any MoC in a safe district who is not taking a position you like. Find out who their primary opponent was. Send the opponent $10 and call up the MoC’s office and let them know what you just did. Safe districts don’t help them in a primary and Sam can probably tell you how many dollars it takes to be as scary as a vote!

  • Sam Wang

    To remind people…comments generally should be civil and pass factchecking.

  • pechmerle

    More on ethics:
    This time focusing on Trump’s extensive personal conflicts of interest. A group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Warren is introducing a bill to require Trump and Pence to divest their business holdings to a true blind trust, and to bind the Pres. and V.P. to the same ethics laws as other high officials in the executive branch such as cabinet members.

    Fact sheet on the proposed legislation here:

    A Credo petition in support of the legislation here:

    As others have said, phone calls to the offices of your senators exert the most leverage. I would do that no matter how blue or red your state/senator is. Both sides of the aisle need to be shown that we the public/voters take this issue very seriously — show that the level of interest is as high as possible.

    I’m calling my senators, and signing the petition.

    • LondonYoung

      This would be far more exciting if Warren was proposing to subject herself to these same rules – but she is not.
      She’s pretty rich for a professor.

  • Sk

    Um, no.

    This was a well orchestrated false flag.

    The House makes an obviously outrageous move so that Trump can look good but chastising them without doing anything

    Trump was calling the ethics office, unfair.

    You all have been had!

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