Return to News Jan 10, 2023

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Kate Sawyer Keane and Dylon Busser, Elias Law Group LLP

RE: House Republicans Adopt Ethics Changes

Yesterday, House Republicans adopted new rules for the House of Representatives for the 118th Congress. The rules package changes several important ethics-related provisions, including allowing members of the public to submit complaints to the Committee on Ethics and important changes related to Board appointments and staffing for the Office of Congressional Ethics. Additional details on the changes are below.

New Committee on Ethics Procedures

  • The resolution requires the Committee on Ethics (the “Committee”) to establish a process by which the public may submit complaints against Members. Previously, only Members – not the public – were permitted to submit complaints to the Committee. By removing the requirement that a complaint be submitted by a Member, the Committee may see an uptick in the number of complaints it receives. We strongly encourage Members to obtain legal representation immediately if they become the subject of an ethics investigation or have questions about the ethics process.
  • If a Member is indicted or otherwise formally charged with criminal conduct, the Committee must, within thirty days, either a) impanel an investigative subcommittee to review the allegations or b) submit a report to the House detailing its reasons for not impaneling an investigative subcommittee and explaining the actions it has taken in response to the allegations.

Changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics

  • The Office of Congressional Ethics (“OCE”) is an independent entity governed by a six-member Board. The new rules reinstate term limits for the OCE Board and remove any member whose service currently exceeds those limits. This change appears to remove all three Democratic voting members of the Board. Due to their appointment dates, none of the Republican Board members appear to be affected. Mr. Bill Luther, who was serving as an alternate Board member, will presumably fill one of the three Democratic vacancies until permanent replacements are appointed by Leader Jeffries.
    • Even with vacancies, OCE can still initiate preliminary reviews at the request of one Republican Board member and one Democratic Board member. We advise Members to seek counsel anytime they are contacted by OCE.
  • The rules also prohibit OCE from hiring new staff beginning February 8, 2023, including to fill staff vacancies that may occur during the next two years. Hiring new staff before the February 8, 2023 deadline requires the affirmative vote of four Board members.

Bipartisan Task Force on Ethics Reform

Finally, the rules direct the Speaker to establish a bipartisan task force on ethics reform. The task force will conduct a comprehensive review of House ethics rules and regulations and submit a report with its recommendations for improvements to House Leadership, the Committee on Ethics, and the Committee on Rules.