Republicans say: never mind

For now, that is.

The news broke 15 minutes ago that

House Republican leaders have pulled a proposal that would gut its independent ethics panel, amid widespread criticism of the plan, multiple lawmakers tell CNN.

Even Trump objected – except what he objected to was the timing, the prioritization, not the substance.

Trump called out his fellow Republicans Tuesday for proposing to curb the powers of the independent ethics panel as their first move of the year, although the President-elect suggested the ethics panel was “unfair.”

“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. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS,” Trump said over two consecutive tweets.

And then, once that’s all done, they can go ahead and get rid of independent ethics oversight.

House Republicans voted 119-74 during a closed-door meeting in favor of Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s proposal, which would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of those very lawmakers, a move that outraged Democrats and outside ethics organizations. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on it as part of a larger rules package up for consideration Tuesday.

Ryan defended the proposed changes, marking the first high-profile break with Trump of the new year.

“After eight years of operation, many members believe the Office of Congressional Ethics is in need of reform to protect due process and ensure it is operating according to its stated mission,” Ryan said in a statement after Trump’s tweets. “I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the Office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress.”

He can “make it clear” all he wants, but that’s not the same as making it true. This House has not always held its members to the highest ethical standards, to put it mildly, and there’s no reason to think it’s going to start now – on the contrary, there’s a lot of reason to think the opposite, given the jaw-dropping level of blithe corruption in the form of conflicts of interest in the new administration. In short no, Paul Ryan, we’re not going to trust you.

Outside ethics group point to the ethics panel as the only real entity policing members and argue its independent status and bipartisan board are an appropriate way to oversee investigations.

“Gutting the independent ethics office is exactly the wrong way to start a new Congress,” said Chris Carson, spokesperson for League of Women Voters, in a statement. “This opens the door for special interest corruption just as the new Congress considers taxes and major infrastructure spending.”

Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog group, said the ethics office “has played a critical role in seeing that the congressional ethics process is no longer viewed as merely a means to sweep problems under the rug.”

“If the 115th Congress begins with rules amendments undermining (the ethics office), it is setting itself up to be dogged by scandals and ethics issues for years and is returning the House to dark days when ethics violations were rampant and far too often tolerated,” they said in a Monday night statement.

Stay tuned.

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