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2 SC congressional Republicans oppose their party’s weakening of ethics office

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., was quick to note he opposed changes to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics. Here, he waves to the audience Friday morning at River Bluff High School following a debate against 2nd Congressional District candidates Arik Bjorn and Eddie McCain. Election day is Tuesday. 11/04/16
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., was quick to note he opposed changes to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics. Here, he waves to the audience Friday morning at River Bluff High School following a debate against 2nd Congressional District candidates Arik Bjorn and Eddie McCain. Election day is Tuesday. 11/04/16 online@thestate.com

At least two South Carolina Republican members of Congress said Tuesday that they opposed amending the rules for the Office of Congressional Ethics. The current office has been seen as an aggressive – critics say overly aggressive – tool against corruption in Washington.

Republican Reps. Joe Wilson and Mark Sanford said they had or would vote against changes seen to weaken the independence of the office.

House Republicans had proposed making the committee less independent in a Monday evening vote, but by Tuesday afternoon had reversed course.

Wilson, in an emailed quote Tuesday, said: “I opposed the amendment to amend the rules on the Office of Congressional Ethics. Since I was elected to Congress, I have pledged to be accessible and accountable. Elected officials should be held to a higher standard of scrutiny with an open process and full due process.”

In an official statement, Sanford said he “will vote against the congressional rules package after an amendment was passed by House Republicans last night that weakens the Office of Congressional Ethics.”

His statement said: “Independent review is an essential ingredient to good government. The amendment adopted behind closed doors last night in conference gives too much power to the very elected officials at times in need of oversight.”

He went on to note that “self-policing on ethics does not work.” He said he had seen the problems with self-policing as South Carolina’s governor.

“This is precisely what I fought against for eight years of my life as governor,” he said in the statement. “In the South Carolina legislative body, members oversee member complaints on the ethics front. It is different for constitutional officers where there is an independent ethics committee. Self-policing on ethics does not work. It is the proverbial case of a fox guarding the henhouse, and the current string of indictments in the South Carolina legislative body is an indicator of that fact.”

Other South Carolina Republican House members either could not be reached or did not respond to requests for comments on their votes on the matter.

Matthew Schofield: 202-383-6066, @mattschodcnews

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