In many of its hard-hitting investigations, the OCE has confronted legislators about their actions, raising sensitive questions about possible conflicts of interest, financial reports, missing financial information, and even questions about the legality of some lawmakers' actions.
There are other watchdogs for ethics within the Congress -- the House Ethics Committee, and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. But these internal committees are often criticized for doing almost nothing because they are in the awkward position of investigating their own members and close colleagues.
By contrast, the OCE is an outside body, widely seen as being objective. It is made up of experts, including some former members of Congress, who are nominated and approved by Boehner and Pelosi.
However, the OCE cannot take disciplinary action against the lawmakers it finds are likely to have violated ethics or federal law -- so it has to refer its most serious investigations to the House Ethics Committee.
Out of the 37 cases it received from the OCE, the House Ethics Committee meted out formal punishment only on two occasions.
It is hard to know whether the stalled fiscal cliff negotiations have sidetracked any effort to deal reinstate the office, or if members of Congress might be quietly leading an effort to kill the OCE.
"Nearly everything the OCE does rubs the entire Congress the wrong way," Sloane said. "And in large part that's because Congress doesn't want to hold anybody accountable for ethics violations. There's no case that they think, 'Oh this was a great case. We're so glad the OCE brought it.'"
In the past, numerous federal lawmakers from both political parties have voted to cut the OCE's budget or limit its powers, including Reps. Mel Watt, D-North Carolina; Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas; John Campbell, R-California; Yvette Clarke, D-New York; Eliot Engel, D-New York; Sam Graves, R-Missouri; Tom Price, R-Georgia; Laura Richardson, D-California; Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi; and Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina.
None of them would agree to an interview with CNN. The OCE also declined to answer any questions.
The lawmakers who did speak to CNN about the OCE said part of the problem is that it casts a wide net.
"They accept anonymous complaints made by anonymous individuals and then have the resources to conduct an investigation which can become a fishing expedition," said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia.
Rep. Brad Miller, D-North Carolina said he believes there should be a way for the American public to raise issues about the conduct of their representatives in Washington.
But, he added, "Some of what the OCE has sent to the Ethics Committee was actually really flimsy. I mean, conduct that if you have any idea what the real world is like, you would know was not ethically questionable or if it is, everything that happens in politics is ethically questionable."
And if the accusation is referred to the Ethics Committee, Miller said that's "like torture" for lawmakers.
"It's like being charged with a crime," he said.
Johnson raised a criticism that first surfaced several years ago after the OCE investigated Rep. Charles Rangel and several other members of the Congressional Black Caucus for expenses from an overseas trip to the Caribbean.
After those investigations, some representatives in Congress accused the OCE of "targeting" African-Americans.
"The Office of Ethics was established for political reasons," said Johnson, who is African-American. "And the victims of it tend to be people who look like me and that's why I'm opposed to it.
"I would rather for us to continue with the same ethics rule and process that was in place before we came to this Office of Ethics. And I don't think it's working well."
All the citizen watchdog groups CNN interviewed -- including CREW, Public Citizen, and the National Legal and Policy Center -- said they do not believe the OCE has targeted any Congressional officials because of their race or any other reason. They all maintain that the OCE has simply investigated cases where concerns of ethics were raised.
Whether members of Congress decide to keep the OCE or allow it to dissolve "is a critical test," according to Lee Hamilton, a widely respected former Congressman who chaired the famous 9/11 Commission.
"It is going to tell us whether the leaders of Congress are serious or whether they're not serious about the enforcement of standards of conduct within the institution," said Hamilton, who is now the director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University.
He said it should surprise anyone that members of Congress don't want to be held accountable for their actions.
"I want to see a tough enforcement of those standards," Hamilton said. "And it bothers me not a whit that some members of Congress get uneasy about it. They should get uneasy about it if they are acting in an unethical way."