Oklahoma Congressman: Trump deserves credit for GOP reversal on ethics office

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Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump deserves credit for persuading House Republicans to drop plans to eliminate an independent ethics office a day after voting to rein it in.

On the first day of the new Congress, Trump tweeted, “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.”

In an interview on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” Cole, a deputy majority whip, said he agreed with Trump that other issues should have been tackled first and, “I think he deserves a lot of the credit.” He added that it “probably wasn’t the right time to do it” and that Trump “reinforced that today and had a big impact.”

But Cole said he supports reforms for the Office of Congressional Ethics, saying there have been bipartisan criticisms that numerous members of Congress have incorrectly been accused of wrongdoing only to later be exonerated. He predicted there will also be bipartisan support not to eliminate the office, but to reform it.

He rejected criticism that the initial vote was done in secret, saying that many of the reforms came from a bipartisan commission from the previous Congress and that the reaction to the Monday vote was overblown.

Cole also said Republicans including Sens. Lamar Alexander and Rand Paul make a fair point when they warn against repealing Obamacare without having a replacement plan in place. He said he believes the repeal of the health care law will come with a time delay and “it won’t happen all in one fell swoop.” “You won’t repeal and replace on exactly the same day. I just don’t think that’s possible,” he said.

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