The 115th congress had not yet been sworn in when House Republicans had their first screw up.
In a hastily called meeting Tuesday morning, House Republicans opted to get rid of a rule that would have effectively defanged the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The rule was passed in another closed-door meeting on Monday night and quickly devolved into a giant messaging problem for House Republicans. Just three weeks before swearing in a Republican president who had campaigned on “draining the swamp,” House Republicans appeared to have done exactly the opposite.
The move left House Republicans flailing even as their party prepares to take control of all the levers of power in Washington. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was peppered with questions about the rule during a meeting with reporters Tuesday morning, and at times seemed to express uncertainty over the exact details of what the rule would do. The majority leader even found himself fending off questions about whether or not House leadership was “weak,” as the rule had passed over the objections of both him and Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Offices were getting flooded with calls” from constituents angry about the rule, according to one House Republican staffer. President-elect Donald Trump tweeted criticizing Republicans for making the move “their number one act and priority,” over other much-hyped GOP agenda items. Many members leaving the meeting said that Trump’s tweets had little to do with the move to kill the provision. McCarthy said he had spoken against the rule for exactly the reason Trump mentioned, telling reporters Tuesday morning, “I didn’t think this was the best timing.”