It was a busy opening day for the 115th Congress, as former and new Congressional members were sworn in to officially kick-start the two-year term. House and Senate Republicans, who fully control the bicameral legislature, wasted no time implementing their agenda and outlining what the next couple of years will look like. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WYO) introduced a resolution that would repeal President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, using a budget resolution to do so. A budget resolution allows the Republicans to bypass the normal 60 votes and just need a simple majority in the Senate to get the resolution passed. President-elect Trump during his campaign vowed to make it his top priority to repeal Obamacare and received lots of support from fellow Republicans.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) retained his role as Speaker in the House by unanimous decision, with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) the lone member to not vote for speaker Ryan, instead voting for Republican Daniel Webster of Florida’s 10th district. After his election speaker Ryan gave a brief speech to the House, highlighting the need for them to come together and work for the American people.
To the American people:
“Now we, their elected representatives, must listen. I just want to say to the American people: We hear you, we will do right by you and we will deliver.”
“The people have given us unified government, and it’s not because they were feeling generous. It was because they want results. How could we live with ourselves if we let them down?”
“Agreement whenever possible, but at all times respect.”
And to both Republicans and Democrats:
“Today as one body, we pledge allegiance to one flag; the red, white, and blue.”
Late Monday night, House Republicans led by chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), approved legislation to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics which was created in 2008 to being accountability to Congress to help prevent corruption and scandal. The bill received immediate backlash from both Democrats and Republicans, including House Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. It didn’t take long for President-elect Donald Trump to give his opinion on the matter, sending out a series of tweets:
After facing bipartisan criticism, House Republicans who supported the motion eventually backed down and reversed their decision to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. When asked for comment, Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) said “We were elected on a promise to drain the swamp and starting the session by relaxing ethics rules is a very bad start.” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) added “People didn’t want this story on opening day.” However, some Republicans were still defending the bill, with Rep. Steve King (R-IA) saying of the Ethics office: “It has damaged or destroyed a lot of political careers in this place, and it’s cost members of Congress millions of dollars to defend themselves against anonymous allegations.”