President-elect Donald Trump criticized House Republicans’ vote Monday night that would have substantially weakened the Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent ethics body that investigates possible wrongdoing by House lawmakers, and suggested that other issues should be higher on the legislative agenda.
On Tuesday afternoon, House Republicans withdrew the changes that had passed the previous night, following Trump’s statements and under intense pressure from the public.
In two tweets Tuesday morning, Trump said Congress had “so many other things of far greater importance” to address, including healthcare and tax reform.
“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority,” he asked, adding a hashtag for his slogan to “drain the swamp.”
Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway had suggested earlier Tuesday that Republicans in Congress had had “a mandate there for them to make significant change,” though she added that she had not spoken to Trump about the vote.
But Trump’s incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the tweets were less a statement on the ethics vote and instead a suggestion that Congress should reconsider its top issues. “He says their focus should be on tax reform and healthcare,” Spicer said. “It's not a question of strengthening or weakening, it's a question of priorities.”
Still, House Republicans agreed Tuesday in an emergency to postpone the changes they had planned to make to the OCE’s rules. The House Republicans’ action Monday night would have placed the independent office under the control of the House Oversight Committee and barred the body from investigating cases without the committee’s permission.
The two highest-ranking Republicans in the House, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, had both spoken out against the ethics amendment, though rank-and-file lawmakers chose to support the changes by a 119-74 vote.