As reported by GovExec, Republicans criticized efforts by Democrats to boost ethics reforms in government. The Democratic bill would create new oversights to ensure that federal employees behave ethically.
The For the People Act (H.R. 1) was lauded by many of the ethics and good-government experts who delivered testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Although the hearing was intended to examine the provisions, parts of the debate broke down over allegations of hidden intentions.
After taking the House majority, Democrats unveiled the bill and called it their top priority for the 116th Congress. The bill would ban federal employees from "using their official positions to participate in matters related to their former employers."
Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said the provision has increased in importance as regulatory agencies have increasingly been led by those with business interests affected by the regulations they control.
Raskin said, “We need to make sure the people that come to work in Washington are actually working for the people.”
For contracting officers at federal agencies, there would be a two-year ban on receiving compensation from companies that they awarded a federal contract to. More, any job offers the relatives of procurement officials receive from companies that have been awarded contracts by the procurement official would have to be reported. Employees would be banned for two years from being involved with contracts involving former employees. All of these changes simply make tweaks to already existing laws.
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said “We need ethics reform before the public’s trust in government is shattered beyond repair.”
Republicans ignored those provisions and focused on reforms such as automatic voter registration and restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, which are issues they said were included in the bill in order to help Democrats get elected.
Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the committee, called many of the bill’s provisions “radical,” which prompted laughter from some in the audience.
Jordan responded, “You can laugh but it’s true,” continuing to say that the bill was “more like a wish list for the Democrat Party than an honest attempt at reform.”
The bill would also have effects on the Office of Government Ethics, making it more difficult for the president to fire the office’s director. The agency would also have more freedom to launch and conduct investigations and enforce disciplinary actions.
Another hearing on H.R. 1 will be held on Thursday. It will focus on a provision to require those who run for the offices of president and vice president to release their tax returns.