In what CNN characterizes as a Trump power play, the GOP has dropped its plans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. According to CNN, “President-elect Donald Trump dramatically strong-armed House Republicans into line Tuesday in his first Washington power play.”
While it is true that Donald Trump criticized congressional Republicans, so did many other people.
And it is not true that he opposed gutting the OCE. His response this morning was only to say that while the OCE’s existence was “unfair” to Republicans, that there were more important priorities to focus on.
CNN explains that,
In an emergency meeting just before noon Tuesday, House Republican lawmakers voted to strip the move on the ethics agency from a package of rules that is due to be voted upon later in the House of Representatives. Their decision to adopt the measure Monday night had opened splits in the GOP and put House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump on opposite sides of a key issue on the first day of the 115th Congress.
CNN seems to be reading this in a needlessly melodramatic way, but then the mainstream media has never known how to respond to Donald Trump. According to the network,
“The swift developments were a first sign of how Trump plans to govern and wield the power of his presidency — and his Twitter account — to bend Washington to his will and an early indication of the new power dynamic between Congress and the White House.”
It may well be that Donald Trump intends to govern through Twitter. He certainly doesn’t believe in press conferences and he has already made clear that he intends to direct whatever amounts to his foreign policy via Twitter, so why not?
The New York Times also credited Trump, while acknowledging the pressure from “others” had a part to play, though for even the Times this is more of an afterthought than central to the Republican aboutface:
House Republicans reversed their plan to gut an ethics office, after intense criticism from Donald Trump and others https://t.co/uEKFLtkwaM
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 3, 2017
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer has said “This will be an accountability Congress” but it would be going too far to suggest this is true of Republicans, who have demonstrated no accountability whatsoever with this opening gambit of theirs. Rather, they attempted to eject accountability out the airlock.
Norman Ornstein says of Trump’s motivation that “We know why Trump was annoyed w/ timing. Focus on ethics brings public outrage– putting more focus on his own outrageous ethical violations.”
To say, on the other hand, that the GOP’s motivation was Trump might be taking it too far.
One Voice’s Laura Friedenbach credits widespread and popular outrage over the move, saying,
“Not one voter went to the polls in November hoping Congress would gut ethics oversight and after countless calls, emails, and tweets they’ve received in the past day, they clearly got the message.”
It might be one or the other, or even both, but it is not something we may ever know all the facts on because it will be self-serving Republicans telling the tale, and their word is already damned forever by what they attempted to do last night and today.