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New Republican rules ban ethics panel from reporting crimes — even if lawmakers are ‘raping children’

House Republicans just voted 119-74 to put themselves in charge of their own (formerly independent) ethics committee, ensuring that the House majority controls whether law enforcement is notified of even the most egregious of crimes committed by House members.

The Office of Congressional Ethics – which investigated and helped bring about prosecution for former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert last year for molesting several young boys when he was a high school wrestling coach – would now be the Office of Congressional Complaint Review. The House committee could stop the office from proceeding with any investigation that they choose, and even if they do discover a crime, the office would no longer be allowed to inform law enforcement.

The most relevant section Grim is referring to is likely this:

“If at any time the board of the Office discovers information indicating that a matter which is the subject of a review by the board may involve a violation of a criminal law, the Board will immediately refer the matter to the Committee on Ethics for further review. Nothing in the previous sentence may be construed to authorize the Board to refer any matter directly to law enforcement.”

Democratic blogger and LGBT advocate John Aravosis pointed out that this could even keep the committee from stopping another Hastert situation:

The change was drafted by Virginian Representative Robert W. Goodlate, who insists that “The O.C.E. has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work.”

Despite this statement, the vote was taken in secret on a federal holiday with no advanced notice or debates. Aides of Paul Ryan report that he spoke against the changes before the vote.

The law still must make it through the full House, but will likely pass given its huge majority of support among the GOP.

Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW

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