Swamped with phone calls from constituents, and questioned by President-Elect Donald Trump on social media, Republicans in the House dropped plans for a vote today that would have reined in the work of an independent Congressional ethics board, though some GOP lawmakers vowed to keep pressing for changes to the ethics system.
“We will have a date certain by summer where we will do it in a bipartisan fashion,” said Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK), as he emerged from a hastily-called closed door meeting of GOP lawmakers.
“There are as many complaints on this on the Democratic side as there are on the Republican side,” Russell added.
“We are going to work on it this year,” said Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), who is the new Chair of the House Ethics Committee.
GOP leaders – led by Speaker Paul Ryan – had warned rank and file Republicans on Monday not to push this late change to the Office of Congressional Ethics, arguing that it would grab headlines and put the GOP in a negative light.
“I had cautioned some of my colleagues last night that the one provision would create quite a public stir,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA). “And it did.”
“There’s too much controversy about it,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA). “I think they did the right thing.”
Republicans also acknowledged that it was a mistake, which overshadowed what should have been a day to focus on their legislative plans for 2017.
“I think to do it first, behind closed doors, was an unforced error,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).
Democrats were more than happy to pile on the divisions in Republican ranks, accusing the GOP of pushing ahead with an ethics change that had little in the way of transparency, unveiled on a federal holiday and voted on in a closed door Republican meeting Monday night.
“House Republicans showed their true colors last night, and reversing their plans to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics will not obscure their clear contempt for ethics in the People’s House,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“The people fought back,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD).
Also getting involved was President-Elect Donald Trump, who used a pair of morning tweets to tell Republicans that no matter how much reform is needed in the ethics process, now was not the time to do that.