In one of the quickest reversals in recent political history, House
The new rules proposed by Rep.
The last-minute shelving of the new rules, which had been approved by Republicans at a meeting Monday, was a major victory for aggressive ethics enforcement. As a 2010 Los Angeles Times editorial argued, the OCE "has made it harder for the Ethics Committee to engage in backdoor cover-ups and deal-making."
But who should get credit for the rescue of the office? Could it be President-elect
It would be easy for readers of news coverage of the turnabout to get that impression. Several noted that Trump had criticized the proposed rules change in a tweet posted Tuesday morning.
Here’s the sub-headline of the story in BuzzFeed: “Amid criticism from Donald Trump,
USA Today quoted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) who opposed the rules change, saying: "Never underestimate the power of a Donald Trump tweet."
Not so fast.
First of all, Trump's two-part tweet was hardly a ringing endorsement of the OCE's work or current independence.
What he actually wrote was this: "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"
Except for the hashtag (an abbreviation for "Drain the Swamp"), there was little in the tweet to encourage supporters of OCE. Trump seemed to be criticizing the priority congressional Republicans were attaching to gutting the office, not their ultimate objective of defanging an "unfair" watchdog.
Also, Trump wasn't the only – or the most important – factor in the backlash. As the Los Angeles Times story noted, "Good-government and watchdog groups warned Republicans to switch course."
Furthermore, a torrent of news articles Monday evening and Tuesday morning brought the Republicans' attack on the office to the attention of the House members' constituents.
As Brian Beutler of the New Republic complained on Twitter: "Amazingly, the OCE outcome is the direct result of quality journalism, yet journalists are falling over themselves to hand credit to Trump."
(It's also worth noting that this isn't the first attempt to weaken the OCE – it has been under attack before, from both Republicans and Democrats. And both good-government groups and newspaper editorialists opposed previous attempts to rein in the office.)
No doubt Trump's tweet had some effect on House Republicans, who aren't eager to antagonize the Republican who will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20. But this was not an example of "I alone can fix it."