It’s happening again: Donald Trump is making congressional Republicans unhappy, and the media is hyping the conflict. While there are definite signs of unhappiness among Republicans, let’s not give these wimps any more credit than they deserve, which is basically none.
“Republicans confront Trump amid cascading controversies,” Politico headlines its take. But does whining and pleading constitute a confrontation? Republicans are for sure whining about Trump forcing out Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary, and they’re not happy about some of his upcoming nominees, like Herman Cain for the Federal Reserve.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to send the message before they send these people up here,” an unnamed Republican senator told Politico. “Sending the message” means a few senators publicly saying they’d vote against nominees like Cain, or Ken Cuccinelli, whom Trump has floated for Homeland Security, and it apparently includes some back-channel pleading, but they’re not exactly putting themselves on the line here. Mitt Romney is threatening to vote against Cain! Rand Paul is complaining about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s understanding of the Constitution! Problem is, those are Republicans who can be relied on to posture for the media but not relied on to stand up to Trump. Others, like Missouri’s Josh Hawley, are sounding more traditional suck-up notes already, though, saying, “It’s his job to pick people who share his vision. He’s certainly entitled to do that. And I hope that the Senate will give due consideration to whoever he decides to send up.”
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake offers up a more realistic take: “The rebukes are generally on legislative issues and have little to do with Trump’s conduct, and they are hardly a sign of a large-scale revolt within GOP ranks. At the same time, they do suggest the relationship between Trump and the legislative branch is deteriorating.”
The question, though, is what Republicans are willing to do about their unhappiness. So far, the answer is not much.