(CNN)On the eve of the 115th Congress, as Republicans prepared for the first time in a decade to assume almost unfettered control of the federal government, the House GOP voted in a closed-door meeting to decimate the chamber's independent nonpartisan oversight office.
A brief history of the House GOP's failed ethics ploy
Their "reform" effort would be short-lived, as a torrent of outrage and bipartisan backlash undercut the controversial amendment, which in less than a day managed to split Republicans, fuel Democratic resistance and put an early blemish on the GOP majority.
The plan would be scrapped before noon, a pair of tweets from President-elect Donald Trump sealing its fate. The Office of Congressional Ethics was given a second life. Here's how it went down:
In a closed door, private meeting Monday night, the House Republican rank-and-file voted to cut the legs out from the ethics panel, an independent watchdog group created in 2008 under then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following a series of high-profile, embarrassing scandals.
The new proposal would have placed the office under the heel of the House Ethics Committee, the same body to which it had delivered reports and findings for the past eight years. It would have been banned from accepting anonymous tips -- silencing many potential whistleblowers -- and been barred from communicating to the public.
The reasoning? Republicans (and some Democrats in the past) had complained that panel's reports, which usually contained allegations of ethical or criminal wrongdoing, were made public without sufficient avenues of redress for the accused.
House Democrats pounced as news organizations reported the unexpected and mysterious vote.
But the verdict was nearly uniform, even crossing traditional partisan lines.
"Republicans claim they want to 'drain the swamp,' but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Anne Caprara, executive director at Priorities USA, a pro-Democratic super PAC, tweeted: "This will haunt GOP in midterms. These type of efforts enrage voters on both sides. And the ads will get to say 'on 1st day of session..."
On the right, Judicial Watch, the conservative group that has hounded Democrats for years, weighed in with a note of disapproval earlier in the night.
"Poor way to begin draining the swamp, @SpeakerRyan," its president, Tom Fitton, tweeted. By Tuesday morning, the group had called the House GOP's vote a "shameful" move to "to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics."
The author of the proposal, Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, came to its defense hours later, pushing back on reports that his amendment would undermine the ethics panel's mission.
"There should be no entity in the entire federal government that doesn't have review by some committee of the Congress so that's all it sets up is oversight," he told CNN. "It still has its designated statutory responsibilities."
Word emerged late Monday that House Speaker Paul Ryan and his top deputy, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, had urged their caucus to back down before the vote, with an aide close to Ryan familiar with the discussions telling CNN on Tuesday the speaker had been "against the amendment and opposed it throughout."
But early Tuesday morning, a top Trump adviser seemed to publicly back the move.
"If a constituent has a complaint, they can still lodge that complaint," Kellyanne Conway told NBC's "Today" show. "They just can't do it anonymously. And many of these people -- members and their staffers who have been under investigation -- they have complained about their due process rights being violated and compromised. They need protections, as well."
But, as she herself noted, Conway had not yet spoken to Trump about the issue.
At a little after 10 a.m. ET, the President-elect joined the chorus.
"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," he said in a pair of tweets. "Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!" -- adding #DTS, a hashtag signifying his campaign promise to "drain the swamp."
If the floor was already falling out, the Trump tweet caved in the ceilings.
Ryan sought to limit the damage while saving face with his caucus, issuing a statement shortly thereafter that sought to cast the "reform" effort in a better light.
"After eight years of operation, many members believe the Office of Congressional Ethics is in need of reform to protect due process and ensure it is operating according to its stated mission," he said in a statement. "I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress."
But by late morning, House Republicans were huddling in private again and a littler after noon, the reversal of the reversal was complete: The amendment had been shelved and the Office of Congressional Ethics would -- for now, at least -- carry on its mission.
As senior Republicans do their best to push ahead and leave this episode behind, Goodlatte blamed "gross misrepresentation by opponents of my amendment, and the media willing to go along with this agenda" for scuttling his efforts.
On the Democratic side, Pelosi sought to yoke the GOP to the controversy.
"House Republicans showed their true colors last night, and reversing their plans to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics will not obscure their clear contempt for ethics in the People's House," she said in a statement, lauding "the strength of public outrage" that stoked a swift and brutal backlash.
By 2 p.m., both Ryan and Pelosi had, with little of the drama that had colored the preceding 20 hours, been re-elected to their leadership posts.