U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford was critical of a GOP move earlier this week to rein in ethics inquiries in Congress, although he contends reforms are needed in the process.
Crawford, appearing on Sunday’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, said the effort to fold the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) into the House Ethics Committee and put many inquiries under the purview of members sends the wrong signal.
“If you look at the laundry list of things the American people want us to tackle, I don’t think you’ll find ethics in the top 10,” he said. “It certainly shouldn’t have been done as a matter of one of the first issues we addressed here in Washington in this Congress.”
Republican Reps. French Hill and Steve Womack voted against the move in House conference, according to their offices, while Rep. Bruce Westerman supported the change. Crawford was traveling and did not make the House conference meeting, but he said he was opposed to the GOP effort.
Crawford underscored that the Office of Congressional Ethics and the process for investigating members of Congress independently would be “entirely appropriate” to change, however.
“Quite frankly, I do think there are reforms that need to take place in the OCE. I don’t think members of Congress, simply because the institution is so reviled, they should be denied constitutional protections like every other American citizen.”
The First District Republican Congressman also addressed potential ethical conflicts of interest for President-elect Donald Trump, saying that the situation was “unprecedented” and that Trump should be given some “latitude” to sort out his business matters and decisions he might make as the nation’s leader.
“I think it’s going to require a lot of thought to figure out how we go about that because I think this is unprecedented that we have a president that has the vast business interests that he has. And asking the president to step away from his business interests is entirely appropriate, but asking him to divest himself of that probably is a bridge too far. There has to be some equilibrium there,” he said.
Crawford also addressed speculation in the interview that he may be considered for the post of Agriculture Secretary in the Trump administration.
When asked if he is in the running for the post, Crawford said, “I’ll just let that statement stand for itself. There has been some talk about that but really too early to tell. I know this has been a long, drawn-out process, but typically an Ag Secretary is one of the last to be named. So if we’re looking at schedules, the President-elect is on schedule. Let’s just see what happens over the next few days.”
Read more here or watch his interview on the subject below.