Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday announced his picks for the new GOP-led House Ethics Committee: Republicans who lied to the public about the results of the 2020 presidential vote and tried to throw the election to its loser, Donald Trump.
“House Republicans are working to restore integrity, accountability, and transparency to the halls of Congress,” said McCarthy, who also tried to subvert the results of that election, in a statement. “The Members on this committee will work to build trust among the American people and will ensure Members of Congress are held to a standard worthy of their title.”
Of the five Republicans McCarthy named to the ethics panel, three voted to overturn the presidential election by fueling the lie that it was stolen from Trump. They are the committee’s new chair, Rep. Michael Guest (Miss.), along with Reps. John Rutherford (Fla.) and Michelle Fischbach (Minn.). The other two GOP members are Reps. Dave Joyce (Ohio) and Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.).
Guest stands out for his particularly egregious record with telling the truth. In addition to voting to overturn the 2020 presidential vote, Guest introduced a bill shortly after the election raising concerns about mail-in voting having “many potential pitfalls that we don’t yet fully understand,” despite there being no evidence of any significant problems. The Mississippi Republican also signed on to a Texas amicus brief in a lawsuit urging the Supreme Court to reverse the results of the presidential election based on a lie about widespread voter fraud.
Guest was the ranking Republican on the ethics panel for the final months of the previous Congress following the death of Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who had been the top GOPer.
The committee is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and it has the power to impose fines against lawmakers or recommend the discipline of a member by the full House. Its investigations into lawmakers and staffers move slowly, though, and both the chair and ranking member have to agree on which complaints merit probes after they are submitted to the panel.
An obvious conflict of interest for the committee’s new membership relates to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the Capitol. In late December, when Democrats led the House, the chamber’s Jan. 6 committee referred McCarthy and three other Republicans to the ethics panel for violating congressional rules by defying subpoenas for testimony and documents relating to the attack.
Now, the ethics panel is not only led by Republicans who have little incentive to investigate their party leader, but it is overseen by Guest, who fueled the lie that led to the insurrection. In other words, this committee is unlikely to hold any Republicans accountable for their role before, during or after the riot.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, a bipartisan watchdog whose past work has led to resignations and criminal charges for members of both political parties, would normally be well positioned to review potential violations by McCarthy and other Republicans. Its mandate includes looking at violations of “law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct” by House members.
But House Republicans, in one of their first acts in the new Congress, voted nearly unanimously to cripple the ethics office.