Congressional Ethics

The set of rules and ideals by which members, officers, and employees of Congress should conduct themselves at all times

Congressional Ethics

Someone must be on their best behavior when having conversations. That should especially be the case for members of Congress. However, when a member of the House of Representatives misbehaves, it’s up to the Office of Congressional Ethics to give out discipline.

What is the Office of Congressional Ethics, and how does it operate? This article is here to answer those questions and explain more.

What is the Office of Congressional Ethics?

On March 11, 2008, House Resolution 895 established the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the first independent body overseeing the House of Representatives’ ethics. It reviews misconduct allegations against House members, officers, and staff.

The OCE publicly publishes statistical summaries of the Board’s actions every quarter.

Review Phases

The OCE has two phases for investigations.

The first phase, the preliminary review, takes about 30 days. Two members (one appointed by the Speaker of the house and one appointed by the Minority Leader) can submit written requests that start the preliminary review. Four members can vote to stop this review. The investigation ends if three members don’t vote to start the second phase.

When the initiation starts, the OCE must inform the subject of the investigation and the Standards Committee. When termination occurs, the OCE must inform the subject of the investigation and could send a report and findings to the Standards Committee. If the investigation is terminated, no public disclosure is necessary.

The second phase, the further review, takes about 45 days. Three members can vote to start a second phase review with the quorum present. Four members can extend the review for 14 days, and four can vote to stop this review. When the initiation starts, the OCE must inform the subject of the investigation and the Standards Committee.

If there’s a reason to believe the allegations, four members can vote to refer to the Standards Committee for either a further review or dismissal. The matter is reported as unsolved if four members don’t support either action.

Suppose the OCE recommends the Standards Committee to review the allegations further. In that case, the Standards Committee must make the OCE report and findings public but can vote to extend consideration for 45 days.

The OCE report must be disclosed no later than one year after transmittal. If law enforcement asks the Standards Committee to defer investigation, the Standards Committee must either make the OCE report public or issue an immediate statement about the deferral request. The Standards Committee must make another statement if the deferral exceeds one year.

If the Standards Committee fails to act, it must make the OCE report public no later than 45 days. No public statement is necessary if it votes for a 45-day extension or to dismiss the matter.

The disclosure is delayed if the Standards Committee makes a subcommittee to investigate the matter. The OCE report must be disclosed no later than one year after transmittal, and it’s only made public after the expiration of Congress.

If law enforcement asks the Standards Committee to defer investigation, the Standards Committee must either make the OCE report public or issue an immediate statement about the deferral request. The Standards Committee must make another statement if the deferral exceeds one year.

Sources:

https://oce.house.gov/about

https://oce.house.gov/learn/process