WASHINGTON - House Republicans, who take control of the chamber next month, pledged Thursday to retain a controversial ethics office, post legislation on the Internet before votes, and require that bills that would increase spending be balanced with cuts elsewhere.
The House Office of Congressional Ethics has irritated several members who were subject to long investigations that criticized their conduct. The office, established by Democrats, is run by a board of people from outside Congress. It has no disciplinary powers, and it can only recommend further investigation by the House-run ethics committee.
Many Republicans originally opposed the office. There could be attempts, after the new Congress convenes, to weaken the office, but they are now unlikely to pass.
The GOP also will continue a rule that bars former members of Congress who are registered lobbyists from using the House gym, where they once could lobby lawmakers.
The rules propose that no legislation receive a House vote until it has been on the Internet for at least three days. In the past, members have complained that major bills came up for votes while few had a chance to read the legislation - or changes inserted at the last minute.
House committees would be required to post online any conflicts of interest with witnesses due to appear at hearings. Also to be posted: which members showed up for a committee hearing or business meeting.
The rules include proposals on spending and taxes.
They would repeal a rule that authorized an automatic increase in the nation's debt limit when the House approved a budget resolution - the initial step in congressional procedures for financing the government.
If a bill requires increased spending, money would be cut by an equal or greater amount elsewhere.
Tax increases could not be used to pay for new mandatory spending.
Highway funding, with some exceptions, would be treated as other spending bills - subject to any member's effort to reduce the amounts. Current House rules bar amendments to eliminate spending for most highway or mass-transit programs. There would be an exemption to protect the Highway Trust Fund, to ensure revenue continues for road and mass-transit projects.
Three committees will have name changes: The Committee on Education and Labor will get back its prior name, the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct will be known by its current nickname, the Committee on Ethics. And the Committee on Science and Technology will become the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.