United States House on Ethics Committee

UnitedStates House on Ethics Committee


UnitedStates House on Ethics Committee

Membersof the Congress are obligated to observe good behavior and upholdhigh morals. A provision of the United States Constitution allows theestablishment of rules to reprimand and expel Members of the House ofRepresentative and the Senate, respectively[ CITATION Men12 l 1033 ].During the 18th and the 19th centuries, the Senate established rulesthat sparingly punished members for their bad behaviors[ CITATION Dew13 l 1033 ].Each House would determine the proceedings rules on how to punish itsmembers for misconduct, and expel them following a consensus oftwo-thirds. The existing norms of the general decency provided themajor confines of appropriate legislative demeanor. Often, theCongress would handle ethics issues based on a case-by-case mannerand address them depending on the obvious inconsistent behaviors.Various events in the 1960s, such as corruption allegations andmismanagement of public offices led to the formation of the SenateCommittee on Rules and Administration. The paper focuses on theevolution of the Ethics Committee and its dealings in ensuringmembers uphold decency.

Backgroundand history

TheUnited States House Committee on Ethics was formed in 1967 with theprimary goal of dealing with misconduct of members of the House[ CITATION Sch121 l 1033 ].The mandate of the House to take disciplinary actions against itsmembers emanates from the Constitution. Each House is obligated todiscipline its member’s misconduct through expulsion from theHouse, fines, censure, and restriction of the member’s power.Before the formation of the house of the ethics committee, there wereno formal regulations governing members’ conduct,employees of the House, and the officers. Before the formation of theHouse Committee on Ethics, a temporary select committee used torecommend appropriate disciplinary actions for members with improperconduct.


TheHouse Committee on Ethics is composed of ten members, with equalrepresentation from both majority and minority parties. Among otherstanding committee of the House, it is the only committee with aneven distribution of members across the political divide[ CITATION Men12 l 1033 ].The service of the members of the committee is limited to at mostthree Congresses. On the contrary, a member of the House Committee onEthics may extend the term further to the Fourth Congress if he orshe holds the position of chair or the ranking minority member. Atthe start of the Congress, the Speaker and the leader of the minorityeach suggest ten members of their corresponding parties serve onvarious investigative subcommittees[ CITATION Dew13 l 1033 ].However, the selected members should not come from the Committee onEthics. The constitution stipulates that any member of the committeeinvolved in an improper misconduct shall not be eligible to take partin his or her proceeding. In such instance, the constitution givesthe speaker authority to appoint other members from respectivepolitical divide to represent the ineligible members. Through theprovisions of the law, members of the committee could disqualifythemselves if they believe their judgment would be partial.


Thecommittee is mandated to provide and publish advisory opinions inregards to the general decorum of any proposed or present behavior.The House Ethics Manual houses all committee’s advisory opinions.The manual has been used before the incorporation of the HouseCommittee on Ethics by the select committee on ethics[ CITATION Sch121 l 1033 ].Under the provision of the constitution, the committee ought toestablish an office of advice and education. The major function ofthe office is to give guidance and advice to members, employees, andofficers concerning the appropriate code of conduct.

Memberssubject to disciplinary actions

Thecommittee has the power to investigate the conduct of employees,officers, delegates, members, and resident commissioner. Under thestatement of the committee, a delegate is subject to censure forimproper conduct. On the other hand, the violation of the House rulesby employees or officer results in reprimand, fine or dismissal fromemployment. The House Committee on Ethics has the mandate to reportany significant violation of law by a member or an officer to therespective federal or government agencies[ CITATION Dew13 l 1033 ].Moreover, reporting of such instance requires either an affirmativetwo-thirds vote of committee members or an assent from the House.


Underthe 88th Congress, the Select Committee was obligated to perform thefollowing duties: investigate any allegations of misconduct reflectedupon the Senate, probe violations of regulations and laws of theSenate concerning improper conduct, suggest disciplinary measures,and recommend additional Senate regulations to ensure properbehavior. After the formation of the Select Committee on Ethics, theSenate adjusted to the 95th Congress and shifted its legal mandate ofthe Select Committee on Standards and Conduct[ CITATION Sch121 l 1033 ].The new committee was obligated with enforcement and interpretationof the Senate Code of Conduct responsibilities.

Add-onsto jurisdiction

From1973, some additions to the Select Committee on Ethics have been madeto ensure efficiency in the administration.

Intelligenceinformation disclosure

Afterthe formation of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, theEthics Committee was obligated to probe unauthorized exposeintelligence information by employees of the Senate, Senator, andofficers.

Acceptanceof foreign gifts

TheEthics Committee was mandated to issue regulations controlling theacceptance of gifts, decorations, and trips by staff and Senatorsfrom foreign states.

Publicfinancial disclosure forms

In1979, the Committee was given the role of administering the Senatepublic financial disclosure requirements as housed in the Ethics inthe constitution.

Fairemployment practices

Thecreation of the Senate Office of Fair Employment Practices ensuredfree and equitable employment opportunities among individuals.


Managementof ethics in public administration positions is an important functionthat provides for honesty, and transparency of public office holders.Leadership aims at setting a good moral example for subordinates andother employees. In the contemporary world, ethics failure and lapsesare common hence, the implementation of laws to regulate grossmisconduct among chosen leaders[ CITATION Men12 l 1033 ].It is important to inculcate the leadership with integrity andprofessionalism to ensure public trust and confidence.


Publicadministration officers, more than often, face scandals overmisconduct, office mismanagement, or misuse of public funds amongothers. In order to prevent scandals in the public offices, federalor state government implements ethics ordinance.

Ethicalissues are global

Ethicalissues are not confined within territorial boundaries but are mattersof universal concern. Therefore, more solutions to the problem arenecessary for addressing ethics in a global perspective. As a resultof the multi-cultural existence of individuals, these solutions oughtto maintain and preserve the presence of multiple cultures.

Inconclusion, the leadership role and creating organizations ofintegrity are continuous processes that require efforts and sacrificein achieving the desired goals and objectives. The exercise ofintegrity and honesty in an organization amounts to accountability,respect, care for other individuals, and organizational interests.Leaders must strive to ensure organizations are ethically driven soas to strengthen their culture.


Dewhirst, R. E., &amp Rausch, J. D. (2013). Encyclopedia of the United States Congress. New York: Infobase Publishing.

Menzel, D. C. (2012). Ethics Management for Public Administrators: Leading and Building Organizations of Integrity. New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Schneider, J., Koempel, M. L., &amp Koempe, M. (2012). Congressional Deskbook: The Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Congress. Alexandria: The Capitol Net Inc.