House Blocks Effort to Gut Ethics Office

Posted July 22, 2011 at 10:56am

The House on Friday rejected a proposal to cut funding for the independent Office of Congressional Ethics by a 102-302 vote.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act would have slashed $619,200 from the OCE’s $1.5 million budget.

Watts, who was himself the subject of an OCE investigation last year and later cleared of wrongdoing, had urged his colleagues to weaken the “redundant and duplicative” office that is “unfair and abusive of the rights of Members of the House,” according to a letter that he circulated Thursday.

Experts say a 40 percent cut in its operating budget would have severely hampered the OCE’s ability to conduct investigations of Congressional wrongdoing and report its findings to the House Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee and the OCE have frequently clashed over the proper application of House ethics standards.