On a day reserved for pageantry that opened the country’s 115th Congress, which began a new era of governance by Republicans, an embarrassing reversal on oversight of ethics took center stage as the GOP became gripped by internal differences and many lawmakers tried to distance themselves from scrutiny.
The nearly 20 hours of change was set into motion on Monday night behind closed doors where GOP lawmakers made a decision over objections from Speaker Paul Ryan to amend the rules of the House and gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent entity.
On Tuesday, the same lawmakers were created by a huge public outcry. Social media started to become filled with criticism for the representatives that tried to rein in the office created just a decade ago following a number of scandals.
Then just past 10:00 a.m. the biggest objection came with two tweets from Donald Trump the president elect who scolded Congress for making the weakening of the ethics watchdog a priority.
With the latest dynamics of power in Washington in a nascent state, the events on Tuesday illustrated the weight Trump’s voice has on Capitol Hill discussions.
The tweets by Trump remained above everything and helped to turn what may have otherwise been a rule change that was insider driven into a complete national ruckus on government ethics.
On Tuesday, the events moved quickly as Trump used political capital on the new Congress and leaders of the Republican House met with Ryan contemplating how things got out of hand and what could be done to salvage things.
Ryan was then sworn in to return as speaker.
Kevin McCarthy the Majority Leader of the House told GOP leaders the rules of legislation with the new ethics amendment would likely not receive the necessary 218 votes to pass and it was then scrapped.
An emergency session was called by leaders of members of the GOP House and McCarthy asked all GOP members if they campaigned during the fall against the ethics office or on repealing the healthcare law of President Obama as well as changing the tax code.
After silence, McCarthy’s ultimatum was – reverse their course now with GOP members or take a public vote on the floor – the decision was to reverse course.