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Biden received yesterday in Newark, Del.
Will Congress pass the ethical changes quickly after Trump leaves office?
The violent end of Trump’s presidency only sets an exclamation point for the punishment for ethically questionable behavior during his four-year term.
And by the time he leaves office, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are already working on ethical changes to prevent some of his most egregious behaviors from normalizing.
Our reporter Elizabeth Williamson wrote an article on the status of such an overhaul and how likely it is to take effect at the start of Biden’s tenure. Elizabeth agreed to answer a few questions on the subject.
How much of that is about writing things – like presidents posting their tax returns – that were considered standard political practice but were never anchored in official politics until Trump started violating them?
The Trump administration scandals revealed two things. First, how many norms of the President’s behavior were Not anchored in law, but rather a matter of tradition enforced through political shame. For example, the idea that presidents disclose their tax returns or that they don’t channel tax money into their family businesses.
Second, the outgoing President made clear the need to update the last major ethics reform bill to get through Congress: the now creaky Ethics in Government Act of 1978, passed after Watergate. These reforms were in response to President Richard Nixon’s use of the Justice Department to persecute his political enemies. Trump’s yen for this suggests a vote is warranted.
Being willing to fire Inspector General has been one of Trump’s most obvious ways to disregard ethical concerns. How would the current proposals increase the protection of inspectors general in law enforcement agencies?
Actually, I.G. Common Cause’s Aaron Scherb, one of the monitoring groups pushing for these changes, said the protection component of the reform package in the house took early action.
On January 5, the eve of the Capitol uprising, the bipartisan General Protection Act passed by representatives Ted Lieu, Democrat of California and Jody Hice, Republican of Georgia, passed the House by vote.
The law would help protect the Inspectors General from retaliation, for example by requiring the executive branch to notify Congress before an I.G. on administrative leave. And it would help free I.G. Slots will be filled immediately by asking the executive branch to provide a statement to Congress that they are not an I.G. after a long vacancy.
Biden is about to become a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress. Are there real concerns about whether party officials are thrilled to enact tough regulations when the Democrats are now in charge?
In the past, the presidents have been reluctant to give up the power of their predecessor administrations. Given the titanic ethical explosion holes that some of these proposals are supposed to close, such as the presidential ban on self-forgiveness or preventing a seated cabinet secretary from using an official trip for a political campaign speech, Democrats expect the upcoming White House to argue about this be relatively low.
Republican support for the changes is less clear. While some take the chance to contain a Democratic president, there are concerns that they will be afraid to support reforms that Trump or his supporters may interpret as criticism of him.
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