Political notebook: Congressional ethics controversy could have been avoided

Published 12:05 am Saturday, January 7, 2017

By Josh Bergeron

The 115th Congress opened its session this week amid the flames of controversy about ethics reform, but it didn’t have to be that way, according to U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8.

Before Congress even got started this week, Republicans passed a measure in a closed-door meeting that would have placed an independent ethics office under control of members of Congress and made other changes that would have diminished the power of the ethics office. It reportedly passed by a 119-74 count. After the meeting, it was set to be voted on by the entire U.S. House, but that never happened.

Hudson, who voted against the ethics changes in the closed-door meeting, said the measure may not have passed if more Republicans were in attendance.

“You look at the vote count and it was, like, 119 to something. It wasn’t all of us,” he said. “I think a lot of people were surprised, and if they had been there the vote may have gone differently. I think that’s one where it would have been nice if the leadership had anticipated that a little better.”

He added that there may be a need for ethics reforms but the start of the 115th Congress was not the time to do it.

Budd named to financial services committee

When he was sworn in this week, Rep. Ted Budd, R-13, didn’t have a committee assignment. Now, he’s been assigned to financial services.

The Financial Services Committee oversees issues related to the economy. The committee’s website lists areas such as banking, housing, insurance and securities exchanges, monetary policy, international finance and efforts to combat terrorist financing as areas it oversees.

A news release from Budd’s office said he was one of four Republican freshmen appointed to the Financial Services Committee.

“As a small business owner, I look forward to using my real-world experience to roll back the restrictive regulations that strangle job creation in this country,” Budd said. “I ran for office because I saw the real harm our government was doing to small businesses every day. I look forward to working with Chairman (Jeb) Hensarling to promote the free-market principles, entrepreneurial spirit, and fiscal policy that make America exceptional.”

Tillis named to whip team

Budd wasn’t the only one in the North Carolina delegation who got a new assignment this week. U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., was named to the Senate Republican Whip Team for the 115th Congress.

As a member of the whip team, Tillis will help wrangle votes to support legislation.

In an announcement about Tillis’ new position, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas praised the North Carolina Republican for his ability to work across the aisle on issues such as criminal justice reform and veterans health care.

For his part, Tillis said he looks forward to finding common-sense solutions that will help create jobs, grow the economy and strengthen the military.

“The American people sent a clear message in November that they want to see less gridlock and more results out of Washington,” Tillis said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.