House Republicans Withdraw Move to Weaken Ethics Watchdog

GOP House members reversed plans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics after facing criticism from the PEOTUS and Democrats.
3:45 | 01/04/17

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Transcript for House Republicans Withdraw Move to Weaken Ethics Watchdog
new year, and we begin tonight with the new congress where Republicans are in control of both the house and the senate and soon, the new Republican president. But it's the president-elect whose voice was heard today, or at least tweeted. Mr. Trump weighing in on a move by members of congress to try to dismantle an ethics board who worked independently to oversee congress. It happened under the radar, and it made big news as Mr. Trump becomes president in 17 days. He sent a clear message to his fellow Republicans, and they listened. ABC's Mary Bruce leads us off from capitol hill. Reporter: Tonight, Donald Trump urging Republicans to fall in line with his campaign promise to change Washington. It's called drain the swamp. We are going to drain the watch. Reporter: But late last night, behind closed doors, more of the same. House Republicans gutting the office of government ethics to make sure they play by the rules. Defying their own leaders, members tried to strip the office of its Independence and remove its ability to issue public statements and investigate anonymous complaints. Democrats were swift to respond. Nancy Pelosi tweeting: "So much for draining the swamp." On "Gma" this morning, trump advisor kellyanne Conway defending the move. We don't want people mired in months, if not years of complaints to be reviewed. Reporter: But three hours later, a very different message from trump himself via tweet. "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, there are a number of act and priority focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!" Reporter: Now under pressure, Republican lawmakers scrambling to respond, holding a last minute meeting. Let's see what happens in this meeting. Reporter: 30 minutes later, an about face. A unanimous decision to delay. The president-elect is criticizing this move. Did that play any role in the decision today? Yes, it animated the press. Reporter: And the speaker? We tried to ask, but he wouldn't bite. Mr. Speaker, what do you make of the delay of the ethics vote? You know me, I don't walk and talk. Reporter: The episode overshadowing what was supposed to be a triumphant day. A new Republican congress sworn in to work with the incoming Republican president. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is the kind of thing that most of us only dreamed about. Reporter: Their to do list, ambitious. Confirming trump's cabinet picks, filling out the supreme court, and their top priority getting rid of Obamacare. Also a top campaign promise of the president-elect, renewing that pledge at his glitzy new years a eve bash at mar-a-lago. We're going to get rid of Obamacare. Reporter: Congress has already voted more than 60 times to repeal Obamacare. But they still have no clear plan to replace it or what to do about the 20 million Americans who rely on it for health care coverage. But tonight in the senate, the first step to repeal Obamacare has already begun. Mary Bruce with us live on capitol hill tonight. And the swearing in behind you there in 17 days. We're learning who will be standing there witnessing it? Reporter: We have learned that bill and Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush will all be here for the inauguration. One of the last times we saw bill and Hillary Clinton together was them smiling on election day. But then, David, of course, that stunning defeat. George W. Bush famously did not endorse during the election, but they all know what it's like to be in office, and they all know what it will be like for Hillary Clinton to sit there, how difficult it will be for her to watch Donald Trump be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

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