Congress

Secret ethics vote opposed by Idaho Republican Reps. Labrador and Simpson

Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson opposed a GOP plan to weaken the clout of the House of Representatives’ independent ethics office.
Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson opposed a GOP plan to weaken the clout of the House of Representatives’ independent ethics office. McClatchy

Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador missed the vote Monday night when his GOP colleagues met in secret to weaken the clout of the House of Representatives’ independent ethics office.

Labrador was flying from Boise to Washington, D.C., when he heard the news of what transpired behind closed doors.

They shouldn’t be doing this on the first day of Congress.

Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador

“They shouldn’t be doing this on the first day of Congress,” Labrador said in an interview with KID radio in Idaho Falls.

Labrador said he was glad when the House overrode the decision on Tuesday.

The ethics office was created in 2008 amid a spate of congressional pay-to-play scandals and widespread sentiment that the member-controlled House Ethics Committee wasn’t doing an adequate job.

Both Labrador and Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson opposed the initial vote, approved by 119-74 on a secret ballot.

“Congressman Simpson voted no and spoke against it,” said Nikki Wallace, Simpson’s spokeswoman.

“You knew … this was going to be a bad idea,” Simpson said.

The ethics office was created in 2008 amid a spate of congressional pay-to-play scandals and widespread sentiment that the member-controlled House Ethics Committee wasn’t doing an adequate job.

The independent ethics office acts as a sort of grand jury, making preliminary inquiries into ethics allegations against House members. If it finds reason to act, it refers cases to the House Ethics Committee. But members of Congress from both parties have chafed at the office.

Labrador was sympathetic to the complaints, saying members of both parties have been frustrated with the process and the way they’ve been treated, with a lack of due process.

But he said any reforms should be made in public, not behind closed doors.

“I’m glad that it was reversed,” Labrador said.

Lesley Clark and David Lightman contributed to this report.

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