Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo love to position themselves among the most center-leaning GOP members in Congress. Ros-Lehtinen is passionately pro-LGBT rights. Curbelo ran for reelection as a hard #NeverTrump Republican.
But both Miamians voted yesterday to all but eradicate the Office of Congressional Ethics, which was formed to police government corruption. Even Donald J. Trump didn't think that vote was a good idea.
The House has since changed its mind, and Republicans unanimously reversed their vote today. But both Miamians deserve some shame for openly trying to destroy a major government watchdog.
According to statements issued early this morning, Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo supported the bill, which was proposed by
But most independent government watchdogs agree the bill would have instead gutted nearly the entire office without replacing it. The bill would have prohibited the commission from communicating with law enforcement if a congressperson was involved in criminal activity. Critics — basically everyone besides the members of the U.S. House — said the move to dismantle the office in a closed-door, Republican-only vote was a terrible idea.
In a statement issued earlier today, Ros-Lehtinen confirmed she voted for the
"I voted for Rep. Goodlatte's amendment to improve and reorganize the renamed Office of Congressional Compliant Review (OCCR) because it includes much-needed oversight and accountability from the House Ethics Committee," Ros-Lehtinen said:
Curbelo, too, told the Miami Herald that he would support the bill when it came up for a full vote today. In a statement, his spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez threw out a wholly tone-deaf shout-out to Miami's own corruption problems, stating that because Miami is such a corrupt place, Curbelo knows a thing or two about it.
So, naturally, he's voting to stop the government from investigating corruption.
"Coming from a district that knows firsthand the impact corruption has on a community, Congressman Curbelo has always been committed to ensuring members of Congress are held accountable and allegations of misconduct are investigated seriously," she said.
But it appears House Republicans were cool with ridding Washington of its anti-corruption
After the new vote, Curbelo's press team issued a new statement, stating that, although the congressman believes the ethics office needs reform, this bill — the one he supported mere hours earlier — suddenly didn't seem all that great. He now says any ethics-reform measures should get some input from both parties.
"The House ethics process needs to be reformed in order to better investigate allegations of misconduct," Curbelo said in a statement to New Times. "I support referring this matter to the House Ethics committee where Republicans and Democrats can work together on bipartisan reforms that would ensure Members of Congress are held accountable while given due process to address accusations.”
A spokesperson for Ros-Lehtinen did not respond to New Times' requests for comment. (Fellow Miami GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart never threw his support behind the rule change
But to focus on the GOP's concerns about "due process" here is to miss the point: Absolutely no one was concerned about the Office of Congressional Ethics before late yesterday afternoon. Voters didn't care about it; in fact, once they got
But voters should not forget how quickly Miami's PR-concerned representatives voted to sell out the American public. During this campaign season, both Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo begged for applause from the public for pushing for common-sense things such as climate-change reform or LGBT equality.
They should not get a pass for today's vote.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.