Tuesday, April 13, 2010

House and Senate Practices

In the House of Representatives, codes and norms are provided for and enforced by the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee, or as it is usually referred to, the Ethics Committee. A standing committee it has a long history, one of its first tasks dating back to its 1798 when it voted to censure Congressman Matthew Lyons for “Gross conduct,”. The entire House subsequently opposed the measure however and refused the advice of the committee.

The Duties of this committee our provided for by the Codes of Official Conduct adopted under House Rule XXIII. These codes allow the committee to do the following: Recommend Administrative Action to establish or enforce the standards of official conduct, Investigate alleged violations of the code, Report to the appropriate federal or state authorities evidence of a violation, render advisory opinions (such as whether to admonish or impeach a sitting member, president, etc.), and consider written waivers of the gift rules.

An important trait this committee does not share with others is that it does not distribute seats proportionally. While other committees reflect the size of the majority party, the House Ethics Committee is evenly divided between five Democrats and five Republicans. The Chairman is a member of the majority party. The same can be said for the Senate Ethics Committee, though this committee is not standing. Despite its standing as a select committe it has existed for decades and has enjoyed great prestige in the wake of the Watergate scandal and subsequent investigations and trials. However, It is unlikely that any future congresses will dissolve the committee.


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