Trump, with 2 tweets, helps push GOP reversal on ethics
WASHINGTON - The Associated PressIn a city bound by tradition, every president taps a legislative affairs director to work with Congress. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump appears ready to use a legislative whip like none other: Twitter.
On the opening day of Congress, Trump demonstrated the power of his 18.5-million Twitter followers and the clout of his populist credentials. With just a couple of tweets, the president-elect helped achieve what GOP leaders could not the night before, successfully pressuring House Republicans to reverse course on a plan to essentially scuttle an independent congressional ethics board.
The move, only hours before Congress was sworn in, likely offered an early preview of how Trump intends to use his tech-savvy bully pulpit to persuade lawmakers who share his party affiliation but not all of his policy priorities. If the Jan. 3 tactic is an example, the days of private back-channel negotiations and behind-the-scenes arm-twisting may now be giving way to a new era of lobbying by social media shaming.
“Virtually everything he does is a different style than Washington is used to,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said of Trump’s lobbying style. “He’s going to be very public, very aggressive.”
By Trump’s standards, the tweets that piled pressure on lawmakers were relatively mild.
After House Republicans voted in a closed-door session on Monday evening - a federal holiday - to undercut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, government watchdogs and Democratic lawmakers railed against the move and people began calling their representatives. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had opposed the changes, fearing exactly the kind of backlash that emerged.
Then Trump weighed in with two Twitter messages on the morning of Jan. 3, writing, “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.”
The incoming president urged fellow Republicans to focus on top agenda items like a tax overhaul, health care and “so many other things of far greater importance!” His tweet ended with #DTS - a reference to “drain the swamp,” a popular catch-phrase during his outsider presidential campaign.
About two hours later, House Republicans, facing a deluge from angry constituents, dropped their plans to place the ethics board under their own control.
Meanwhile, Paul Ryan on Jan. 3 handily won re-election as Speaker of the House or Representatives as Republicans prepare to control both houses of Congress and America’s highest office.
Ryan won in a 239-189 vote, besting top Democratic lawmaker, Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi was re-elected to her position as minority leader.
“Honored to be elected Speaker of the House for the 115th Congress,” Ryan tweeted shortly after the vote.