Nets Revel in ‘Rough Start’ for GOP Congress: ‘#FAIL,’ ‘Overshadowed by Stumbles’

After hyping fears on Tuesday that congressional Republicans were preparing to “gut” a House ethics panel, on Wednesday, all three network morning shows delighted in the GOP reversing course on the issue and satisfyingly proclaimed that the minor controversy had tarnished the first day of the 115th Congress.

At the opening of NBC’s Today, co-host Matt Lauer heralded: “Rough start. A plan to gut an independent ethics office blows up in the face of the new Republican congress. The idea tabled after a chorus of criticism...” Moments later, he touted “turmoil and controversy overshadowing the first day of the Republican-controlled Congress.”

In the report that followed, correspondent Hallie Jackson noted Republicans focusing on repealing ObamaCare and declared: “This is the day-two headline that Republicans wanted to see on day one of the new session of Congress, when it was a flip-flop over an ethics office that ended up stealing the spotlight.”

Jackson told viewers: “Republican leaders looking for a better day-two this session after a rocky start on day one. Coming under fire, then scrapping plans to defang an independent congressional ethics watchdog. After backlash, not just from the public, but some congressional colleagues.” The headline on screen blared: “GOP Ethics Debacle; Backlash, Reversal Marks Rough Start for House Republicans.”

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Discussing the topic with Bloomberg Politics editor Mark Halperin after the report, Lauer asserted: “This was supposed to be their [Republicans] big day, the day they had the whole ball of wax, the House, the Senate, soon to be the White House. And instead of a victory lap yesterday they were forced – ” Fill-in co-host Katie Couric chimed in: “#FAIL.” Lauer continued: “Yeah, they're forced to reverse course on this ethics office. It's a big fumble. Who’s to blame?”

Halperin reined in the hyperbolic language: “Well, it's a stumble, I don’t think it’s a fumble. I think they can move on from this if they learn the lessons....I don’t think there’ll be any lingering cost.”

On ABC’s Good Morning America, correspondent Mary Bruce gleefully began: “Republicans are trying to move on after their first day was overshadowed by stumbles...” A soundbite played of Bruce pestering GOP congressman Mark Sanford: “Are you concerned that – about the message that this is sending on the first day of the new Congress?”

In a report for CBS This Morning, reporter Nancy Cordes declared: “For Republicans, the first day of the 115th Congress was a rocky one. They held an emergency meeting to undo a closed-door vote they took one day earlier to gut the independent office of congressional ethics, a surprise that triggered bipartisan condemnation...”

Here are excerpts of the January 4 coverage on NBC, ABC, and CBS:

Today
7:02 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Let us get to our top story today, and this is turmoil and controversy overshadowing the first day of the Republican-controlled Congress. Day two promising more of the same with the battle over ObamaCare now heating up. We’ve got this covered, beginning with NBC’s Hallie Jackson, she is on Capitol Hill. Hallie, good to see you, good morning.

HALLIE JACKSON: Hey, Matt, good morning to you and Katie both. That political drama, by the way, dealing with these dueling morning meetings today, President Obama and Vice President-elect Mike Pence both set to visit the Hill to rally their troops in very different ways over the health care law. This is the day-two headline that Republicans wanted to see on day one of the new session of Congress, when it was a flip-flop over an ethics office that ended up stealing the spotlight.

(...)

JACKSON: Republican leaders looking for a better day-two this session after a rocky start on day one. Coming under fire, then scrapping plans to defang an independent congressional ethics watchdog. After backlash, not just from the public, but some congressional colleagues.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: GOP Ethics Debacle; Backlash, Reversal Marks Rough Start for House Republicans]

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM [R-SC]: It's the dumbest friggin thing I've ever heard.

REP. WALTER JONES [R-NC]: When I got into office, the first phone call I picked up was from a citizen in my district that was so upset that the Republican majority would have made this decision.

JACKSON: President-elect Trump not criticizing the move itself, just the timing of it. Firing off a tweet asking Congress instead to “Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!” Adding “#DrainTheSwamp.”

(...)

7:08 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Let us bring in Mark Halperin and Steve Kornacki. Happy New Year, guys, good to see you.

MARK HALPERIN: Happy New Year.

LAUER: Mark, Let me start with you and let’s start with the Republican-controlled congress and what happened yesterday. This was supposed to be their big day, the day they had the whole ball of wax, the House, the Senate, soon to be the White House. And instead of a victory lap yesterday they were forced –

KATIE COURIC: #FAIL.

LAUER: Yeah, they're forced to reverse course on this ethics office. It's a big fumble. Who’s to blame?

HALPERIN: Well, it's a stumble, I don’t think it’s a fumble. I think they can move on from this if they learn the lessons. They have to understand the message – the biggest message of this election, people don't want business as usual in Washington. They don't want politicians getting special treatment. The decisions they made to change the rule was absurd. It was reversed for a range of reasons, including constituents and Donald Trump teaming up to tell them, “No way.” If they learn the lessons, I don’t think there’ll be any lingering cost.


GMA
7:04 AM ET

ROBIN ROBERTS: President-elect Trump also putting the pressure on Congress — going against members of his own party for trying to strip power from the congressional ethics office. House Republicans quickly reversing course on Tuesday.

Our congressional correspondent Mary Bruce has more – joins us from Washington. Good morning, Mary.

[ABC News Graphic: “The Trump Transition: GOP Scraps Plan To Gut Ethics Office: Republicans About-Face After Trump Tweet”]

MARY BRUCE: Good morning, Robin. Yeah, it is a new Republican era here on Capitol Hill nearly a decade in the making; and this morning, Republicans are trying to move on after their first day was overshadowed by stumbles and a clash with the President-Elect.

BRUCE (voice-over): This morning, Donald Trump showing he can get Republicans to fall in line. Just a day after Republicans voted to eliminate an independent ethics body, the measure was scrapped.

BRUCE (on-camera): Are you concerned that – about the message that this is sending on the first day of the new Congress?

REP. MARK SANFORD, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think – you know, a good message is being sent here; which is – you know, Republican leadership and membership alike said this is a problem – we need to change it – and we just did.

BRUCE: Republicans buckling under pressure from constituents, party leaders, and the President-Elect. Trump Tweeting, ‘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.’

(...)


CBS This Morning
7:05 AM

(...)

NANCY CORDES: For Republicans, the first day of the 115th Congress was a rocky one. They held an emergency meeting to undo a closed door vote they took one day earlier to gut the Independent Office of Congressional Ethics, a surprise that triggered bipartisan condemnation, plus a scolding from the President-elect who tweeted, “Do they really have to make the weakening ethics watchdog their number one act and priority?”

REP. STEVE KING: I’m concerned that now we have Republicans criticizing Republicans.  

CORDES: There was unanimous agreement to start again and take a more transparent approach to congressional ethics reform.

REP. DAVE BRAT: I think we're going to work it through properly, right? The American people say, “Hey, slow down. We want to know what's going on here.”

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC