White House criticizes House GOP on ethics move

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans have dropped plans to gut the independent ethics office after widespread criticism and questions from President-elect Donald Trump about GOP priorities.

In a reversal, the House GOP decided on Tuesday to strip the provision from a package of rule changes that lawmakers will vote on later in the day.

Said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma: "People didn't want this story on opening day."

House Republicans had voted Monday night to change the rules.

The Obama administration is suggesting it is "rather revealing" that House Republicans planned to gut an independent congressional ethics board.

Republicans dropped plans Tuesday to neuter the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, just a day after the plan was proposed.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said it was an attempt by the Republicans to "skirt responsibility" and predicted it would not be the last time they try to "help people in positions of power and influence escape accountability."

"That's not draining the swamp," said Earnest Tuesday, referring to President-elect Donald Trump's vow to end corruption in Washington.

Trump tweeted criticism of the GOP's plan, but it was not clear if he was only objected to the timing of unveiling the plan on the first day of the 115th Congress.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has been re-elected to serve as speaker of the House of Representatives during the 115th Congress, gaining 239 votes.

Ryan, 46, will serve his first full term as speaker after succeeding John Boehner in October 2015. Tuesday's vote comes with little of the drama that accompanied Boehner's election two years ago when 25 House Republicans voted for someone other than Boehner.

Ryan will lead the GOP charge to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health insurance law and cut taxes and regulation.

Democrats nominated Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California for speaker. She received 189 votes and will serve as House minority leader. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio gained two votes, while Reps. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, John Lewis of Georgia and Daniel Webster each gained a vote.