President-elect Donald Trump forced the Republican Party to change a controversial item on their agenda, and he did it with just two tweets.
The message was sent early Tuesday as Congress began the first day of the 115th session and swearing in ceremony for members of Congress. On Monday evening, Republicans announced planned changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics that had been instituted by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The changes were designed to allow for anonymous whistleblowers to make claims of ethics violations by members of Congress but, according to its critics, also allowed unsubstantiated accusations made for political expediency.
Republicans led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) voted to change the rules so that the office be placed under the control of Congress, rather than remain independent as originally established. The House Ethics Committee, which is run by members of Congress, would also have the power to stop any OCE investigation under the proposed reforms.
The controversial plan had been opposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said that reform could be made to the office by a bipartisan effort instead of unilaterally changing it. The plot was also criticized heavily by Democrats and others who said it was hypocritical after Trump won the election under the "drain the swamp" banner.
Trump's tweets below appear to have pushed the GOP to reverse their course, even as he admits that the ethics office had operated in an unfair manner:
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— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1483455809.0
........may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1483456061.0
Soon after Trump's tweets, the GOP announced they would be dropping their plan and allowing the ethics panel to continue as it had been operating. The reversal puts Trump's own advisor in an odd position, as Kellyanne Conway had vehemently defended the Republican plan — though she admits she hadn't discussed it with the president-elect.
However the plan isn't completely dead. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) says that the reforms are needed to protect members of Congress from baseless accusations and that changes could still made later on.
The episode shows how Trump may use the power of the Oval Office, which he hasn't even inhabited yet, to influence the legislature — and how he could use the medium of Twitter to send his messages unimpeded by the media.