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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

House Committee on Ethics: A Brief History of Its Evolution and Jurisdiction - 98-

Jacob R. Straus
Analyst on the Congress

The United States Constitution (Article 1, Section 5, clause 1) provides each House of Congress with the sole authority to establish rules, judge membership requirements, and punish and expel Members. From 1789 to 1967, the House of Representatives dealt with disciplinary action against Members on a case-by-case basis, often forming ad-hoc committees to investigate and make recommendations when acts of wrongdoing were brought to the chamber’s attention. Events of the 1960’s, including the investigation of Representative Adam Clayton Powell for alleged misuse of Education and Labor Committee funds, prompted the creation of a permanent ethics committee and the writing of a Code of Conduct for Members, officers, and staff of the House.

Begun as a select committee in the 89
th Congress (1965-1966), the House created a 12-member panel to “recommend to the House … such … rules or regulations … necessary or desirable to insure proper standards of conduct by Members of the House and by officers and employees of the House, in the performance of their duties and the discharge of their responsibilities.” Acting on the select committee’s recommendations, the House created a permanent Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in the 90th Congress (1967-1968). In the 112th Congress (2011- 2012), the committee was renamed the Committee on Ethics.

This report briefly outlines the background of ethics enforcement in the House of Representatives, including the creation of both the Select Committee on Ethics and the Committee on Ethics. The report also focuses on various jurisdictional and procedural changes that the committee has experienced since 1967 and discusses the committee’s current jurisdiction and procedures.

For additional information on ethics in the House of Representatives, please refer to CRS Report R40760, House Office of Congressional Ethics:History, Authority, and Procedures, by Jacob R. Straus; CRS Report RL30764, Enforcement of Congressional Rules of Conduct: An Historical Overview, by Jacob R. Straus; CRS Report RL31126, Lobbying Congress: An Overview ofLegal Provisions and Congressional Ethics Rules, by Jack Maskell; CRS Report RL31382, Expulsion, Censure, Reprimand, and Fine: LegislativeDiscipline in the House of Representatives, by Jack Maskell; and CRS Report R42495, The STOCK Act, Insider Trading, and Public Financial Reportingby Federal Officials, by Jack Maskell. 
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Date of Report: November 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: 98-15
Price: $29.95

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