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01.04.2017 • WedneSday • M 1


House Republicans back of gutting ethics oice after Trump backlash


House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, shakes hands with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington after he was re-elected to his leadership post, as the 115th Congress convened.


would rein in the Oice of Congressional Ethics. Instead, the House will study changes to the oice with an August deadline. The about-face came hours after Trump took to Twitter to slam House Republicans for voting behind closed doors Monday night in favor of immediately weakening the independent ethics oice. The vote defied House GOP leaders and complicated Trump’s “drain the swamp” campaign mantra. “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, health care and so many other things of far greater importance!” Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning, hours before the new Congress convened. He added the hashtag “DTS” — shorthand for “drain the swamp.” Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., a recent chairman of the House Ethics Committee, said that members of the House GOP leadership mentioned Trump’s opposition to the ethics oice changes at the brief, closeddoor meeting in the Capitol basement, giving weight to reversing Monday night’s decision. “That should be a consideration,” Dent said, explaining how leaders framed the thinking. Democrats and other watchdog groups were also critical of the Monday night vote. A coalition of more than a dozen organizations and activists expressed their frustration in a Tuesday morning letter to House Democratic and Republican leadership. Members also faced a barrage of angry phone calls from constituents. “I can tell you the calls we’ve gotten in my district oice and here in Washington surprised me, meaning the numbers of calls. People are just sick and tired,” Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., said of the simmering outrage over the proposed change. “People are just losing confidence in the lack of ethics and honesty in Washington.” In a statement, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “Republicans should remember the strength of public outrage they faced in the space of 12 hours as they scheme to do lasting damage to the health and economic security of millions and millions of hard-work-

ing families.” But Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, was adamant in defending his Monday night vote for the changes in the ethics committee. “Nearly a decade since its creation, complaints received and investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics have resulted in no major disciplinary actions while costing taxpayers over $10 million,” he said in a statement issued by his office. “Reforming the office is necessary to ensure that its future investigations of representatives and staf are handled in a manner consistent with Constitutional due process rights, and in a way that protects the confidentiality of witnesses as well as those who are wrongly accused.” Congress members who backed the changes reportedly cited an 8-year-old ethics investigation into Missouri Rep. Sam Graves as an example of why they needed to rein in the independent ethics watchdog. Graves’ fellow lawmakers eventually exonerated him but not before the congressman had spent significant time and money defending himself against what he complained at the time were “frivolous, anonymous allegations.” On Tuesday, the House passed a rules package that did not include the proposed changes to the ethics oice. It did contain a controversial provision that will impose fines on members using electronic devices to take photographs, record audio or video or conduct livestreams on the House floor. The provision was a response to House Democrats staging a sit-in last summer aimed at forcing votes on gun control legislation. The changes would have renamed the ethics office as the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and ensured that the office would not have been allowed to employ a spokesman, investigate anonymous tips or refer criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors without the express consent of the House Ethics Committee. GOP leaders are eager to wield their House and Senate majorities to rapidly advance an ambitious conservative agenda, as Trump prepares to take office in under three weeks. But the fresh signs of discord threatened to slow their march. Both House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., opposed changing the ethics office when

rank-and-file Republicans decided to defy them with a vote Monday. By Tuesday morning, both leaders seemed resigned to accepting it. Then, by early Tuesday afternoon, things had changed. According to several people in the private meeting Tuesday, McCarthy convened the gathering and laid out options for proceeding: Either Republicans could decide among themselves to change course on the ethics changes, or the matter would be hashed out on the House floor, where members would have their views publicly recorded. With that, he asked if there was any objection. While some members maintained that the House should act immediately to rein in the ethics oice, the vast majority agreed to eliminate the proposal and move on. “Essentially it was: We can handle it here, or we can handle it on the floor,” said one person present who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Republicans are under intense pressure to unify behind common goals in the era of Trump, after being plagued for years by infighting in Congress and on the campaign trail. They have identified a list of legislative priorities beginning with the repeal of the Afordable Care Act that they hope will energize most of the GOP. But they could face significant speed bumps. Tuesday proceeded as a day of ceremonial rituals and consequential business on Capitol Hill. Members of the new House and Senate were sworn in during the afternoon. Republicans will hold a 52-48 advantage over Democrats in the Senate; their edge in the House will be 241-194. House lawmakers re-elected Ryan as House speaker Tuesday afternoon, with the vast majority of Democrats voting for Pelosi. In the Senate, the first bill introduced Tuesday was budget legislation that contains instructions for committees in both chambers to begin dismantling the Affordable Care Act. The bare-bones spending outline gives members of four committees until Jan. 27 to produce bills that each save $1 billion over a decade by slashing elements of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Chuck Raasch of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Tribune News Services contributed to this report.


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Automakers say Trump tweets were of-target FORD • FROM A1

reiterating his threat to impose punitive tarifs on imports. Shortly afterward, Trump celebrated an announcement by Ford that it was canceling a $1.6 billion factory in Mexico and using some of the money to expand production in Michigan. “Instead of driving jobs and wealth away, AMERICA will become the world’s great magnet for INNOVATION & JOB CREATION,” Trump tweeted. But the business decisions that Trump has criticized and the deals he has trumpeted are not so straightforward. After his election win, Trump touted a deal to save jobs at a furnace factory in Indiana but inflated the number of jobs preserved. He later claimed credit for a big Japanese investment in the U.S. economy that was in the oing well before his election. On Tuesday, in his tweet about GM — whose chief executive Mary Barra sits on Trump’s jobs council — Trump attacked the automaker for selling Chevrolet Cruzes assembled in Mexico to U.S. car dealers and warned that the company should “make in the U.S.A. or pay big border tax!” But almost all of the 190,000 Cruzes sold in the United States last year were made at a factory in Lordstown, Ohio, the company said. Last year, GM introduced a hatchback model that is made in Mexico and is largely sold in international markets. GM spokesman Pat Morrissey said the hatchback was available in the United States but that only 4,500 were sold here. GM sold 25,000 Cruze hatchbacks outside the country. “The hatchback is a very small volume vehicle,” Morrissey said. “There’s just not a lot of demand for it.” The Cruze sedan manufactured in Ohio has suffered from weak demand as well. In November, GM announced it would eliminate the factory’s third shift, cutting 1,245 salaried and hourly workers in the process. The jobs will end this quarter. The plant currently employs about 4,500. “We are not reducing a shift based on quality or performance,” wrote Scott Brubaker, chairman of United Auto Workers Local 1714, one of the two that represent the factory, in a message to members posted on the union website. “Unfortunately, the market dictates our livelihoods and this is a business that changes based on consumer demand.” Meanwhile, Ford’s decision to abandon a new factory in Mexico was not a unilateral victory for Trump’s nascent administration. The presidentelect had criticized Ford during his campaign for shifting production of the Focus to the new facility south of the border. On Tuesday, Ford announced that it would invest a little less than half the money saved from canceling that project into producing electric and self-driving vehicles at facilities in Michigan and Illinois. The Michigan plant alone employs about

3,500 workers, and Ford said their jobs will stay in place. The decision is also expected to create about 700 U.S. jobs, and Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields called it a “vote of confidence” in Trump’s economic agenda in an interview on Fox Business News. However, the production of the Ford Focus will not return to America. Ford said demand for small vehicles has waned considerably in the U.S. in recent years as low fuel costs make SUVs and trucks more palatable to consumers. Ford determined that the new plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, was no longer necessary and instead would shift production of the Ford Focus to an existing factory in Hermosillo, Mexico, said Joseph Hinrichs, president of Ford in the Americas. The change in plans was made recently and without consulting people connected to Trump, Hinrichs said. Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford shared the news with Trump in a phone call Tuesday morning, though the details of that call were not immediately available. “When it’s a close judgment call, maybe people are tilting more toward the side of U.S. production, not necessarily because they anticipate any specific policy change but because they don’t know what the policy environment is going to be like and they’re afraid to find out,” said Alan Cole, an economist at the Tax Foundation. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the United States does not impose tarifs on products imported from Mexico and Canada, but renegotiating the long-standing treaty was one of Trump’s key campaign promises. Since his election, he has attempted to claim credit for saving or creating thousands of U.S. jobs, but the details of the deals were more complex. Trump boasted that telecom giant Sprint was bringing back 5,000 American jobs. Instead, the company is working with third-party vendors who manage its call centers to move work to the United States. Trump claimed he had stopped Ford from moving a Kentucky plant to Mexico. The automaker said it had never planned to shut down the factory but replace production of the Lincoln MKC with more Ford Escapes. And after Trump announced that more than 1,000 jobs would remain in Indiana, workers at the Carrier plant there found out the actual number was closer to 800. Trump’s tweet Tuesday about GM does not make clear whether he is calling for targeted tax to punish individual companies that shift production out of the United States or for a blanket tarif on imports. Trump has repeatedly called for slapping a 35 percent tariff on Mexican products, but there is no framework for a broadbased border tax in his proposal to overhaul the corporate tax code.