Amendment slashing Office of Congressional Ethics splits Dems in House debate

Watt said the OCE is "unfair and sometimes abusive" to members of the House that it is investigating. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) rose to speak in favor of the amendment Thursday night.

"The OCE has crossed the line over and over and over again," King said. "They've gone on witch hunts. They've taken pieces of information that came from political opposition on either side, and embellished that into things."

But Watt's proposal was opposed by members of his own party, a sign that it could fail when it comes up for a vote Friday. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, said he would oppose it, and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) spoke at length against the proposal.

Capuano said the amendment is "payback" against an office that has done things that not all members like. Watt himself was under investigation by the OCE in the last Congress, although Capuano did not mention that.

Instead, Capuano argued that gutting the office would give the appearance that Congress is not policing itself as much as it could, and cautioned members against thinking that slashing its budget would change the office much.

"And you'll be perceived, this House will be perceived, by the general public for what it is ... simply an attempt to roll back our progress on policing our own activities," he said.

Capuano argued that complaints about the OCE could easily be addressed through a change in House rules and encouraged members to explore that option.

After his amendment was deemed to fail by voice vote Thursday night, Watt asked for a recorded vote, which will be taken up Friday along with other amendments to the bill.