Members of Congress in the House and Senate, candidates for federal office, senior congressional staff, nominees for executive branch positions, Cabinet members, the president and vice president and Supreme Court justices are required by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to file annual reports disclosing their personal finances. Compliance and enforcement of this requirement is overseen by the congressional ethics committees, the ethics offices of government agencies and, in the case of executive branch officials, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.
These disclosures include financial forms, gift and travel filings, post-employment lobbying restrictions, and more. It’s a lot of disclosure information, and oftentimes, some disclosures must be filed in person rather than online.
The following outlines the major types of information that must be reported on personal ethics disclosures, as well as if the information is publicly available online, in person, or both.
At the beginning of each Congress, House lawmakers adopt rules that will govern the state of play for both sessions of that Congress. The rules of the House of Representatives are a chance for the majority to set priorities as well as implement operational and institutional reforms.
You may have heard of the Congressional Budget Office, the legislative branch agency tasked with advising Congress on the potential economic impact of legislation. In formulating these analyses, CBO may rely on outside experts. The agency has three panels of advisers (Economic, Health, and Health Insurance) composed of experts from academia, the private sector, and elsewhere that provide input on CBO analyses, and CBO also consults with other outside experts.
The Government Publishing Office’s (GPO) lack of permanent leadership was just one of the major issues raised at this week’s oversight hearing of the GPO Office of the Inspector General.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt kicked off the hearing by voicing concerns over shaky leadership: the agency hasn’t had a permanent director since October 2017 and has been under the leadership of Acting Deputy Director John Crawford for the last 12 months. On top of that, five of the ten GPO executive leadership team positions are vacant with employees serving in an acting capacity, according to Chairman Blunt’s remarks.
Members of Congress and their staff are making a serious effort to grapple with the immediate issue of reforming how these claims are handled. Perhaps future legislation will address some of the problems in the House Ethics Committee itself, and also look at how Congress can proactively prevent these problems from arising instead of dealing with them one-at-a-time or after-the-fact.
Today the House of Representatives held its second hearing on the issue of sexual harassment in Congress, focusing on the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, the law that created the framework through which harassment and other congressional workplace issues are addressed.
The House and Senate recently passed resolutions requiring sexual harassment training, and the House is exploring whether it should do more. Rep. Speier has introduced legislation to reform the CAA, H.R. 4396, although she has said it does not go far enough.
At the start of the 115th Congress, there was a fight over whether the Office of Congressional Ethics should continue its existence. I won’t get into the merits of the disagreement here (although I’ve written about it elsewhere), but how it occurred is interesting.
The Office of Congressional Ethics is one of the many offices and agencies created by the rules of the House of Representatives, which are adopted on the first day of the new Congress. The House Rules are contained in a simple resolution, and that resolution usually is released to the public at most 24 hours before the vote, and sometimes with even less notice. At the start of the 115th Congress, the Republican Conference did not finalize the proposed rules until the night before they were to be considered by the House, and the full text didn’t leak out in full until the day of the vote.
Update at 12:52 pm on Tuesday: After an outpouring of phone calls, emails, tweets and an avalanche of news stories, House Republicans held a secret meeting just before noon and pulled the Goodlatte amendment, which would have eviscerated the Office of Congressional Ethics. While we have won for now, members are quoted as saying they’re going to revisit the issue later this year. We must remain vigilant. Continue reading “Effort Underway to Undermine the House’s Ethics Watchdog”→
On the first legislative day of a new Congress, the House of Representatives operates virtually in a state of nature, governed only by the Constitution. The first order of business is electing a Speaker, and after the Speaker swears in the Members, they adopt the rules that govern the House. Until then, there are no committees, no officers of the House, nada. At that moment, it’s pure majority rule. The Rules of the House, adopted that day, set the tone and parameters for all that follows.
Recently, Bloomberg summarized a proposal from House Republicans on the Rules the House of Representatives for the 115th Congress should adopt, and I have copies of a draft that shows how these rules would differ from the 114th, so here’s what pops out as notable. (Warning: this is not comprehensive!)