Here we go kiddies. I wrote recently that the dynamic in this shutdown battle that most intrigues me is the fact that as much if not more than the division between Democrats and Republicans, it was the divide between Republican factions, in both the GOP House and the GOP Senate, as well as between the two chambers, that was fueling the crisis. They’re so busy fighting with each other over what they want that the Democrats are almost inconsequential to the process right now.
And now, Jeff Flake has finally had enough of the bullshit. And not just with Trump. Flake has been a consistent critic of Trump, bashing him in a book, then repeatedly taking to the well of the Senate to criticize his excesses. His newfound moral courage is tempered by two simple facts. First, he has chosen to step down rather than run for what would have been a difficult reelection in 2018, so there is no risk for him to trounce Trump whenever the fancy strikes him. Second, and more importantly, although he slams Trump regularly, he continues to vote in GOP lockstep for Trump. He’s a paper tiger. Or, more to my mind, a craven hack.
But now, he’s turning his wrath on someone other than Trump, and in an atmosphere of frustration with the inability of the Senate to pass Trump’s agenda, it’s a spark that could start a brush fire. Last night, Flake attended a meeting where Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer flinging shit balls at each other like a couple of howler monkeys, and he made his judgement public when he came out. He not blamed Trump for the impasse, he blamed Mitch McConnell as well. As quoted in the Daily Beast, he took McConnell behind the woodshed;
“We’re not going to get any better, particularly on the [immigration] issue, by waiting three weeks,” Flake told The Daily Beast. “It just gives the White House time to agree, disagree, and go back and forth. We just need to pass a bill and put it either on the president’s desk… or just pass a Senate bill and see what the House does with it.”
Flake is making two very valid, but also two very damaging criticisms against his Majority leader. First, he’s fed up with kicking the can down the road. The DACA issue isn’t going away, and as long as the GOP can get away with kicking that can, they will, looking more and more obstructionist and racist on the issue while the Democrats keep pounding them with it. But more importantly, he laid the blame squarely on McConnell’s shoulders for sticking his thumb up his ass waiting for Trump to finally make up his split pea sized mind;
“There’s an institutional prerogative here. We pass legislation. The president either signs it or vetoes it. We shouldn’t be beholden to everything the president wants.”
It just don’t get much plainer than that. “Hey, Mitch! Quit dicking around worrying about what Trump thinks. Let’s just do our jobs! Pass the bills, and send them to Trump’s desk, or the House for consideration. If he signs it, we win. If he doesn’t sign it, he takes the blame, not us. Quit trying to read tea leaves while you’re washing out the cup!”
The fact that Flake then announced that he will vote against the House continuing resolution was almost anti climactic from where I’m sitting. For the first time, as far as I know, a sitting GOP Senator has come out and taken a direct swipe at his own leader, not Trump, but McConnell. There are quite a few GOP moderate Senators who want to get DACA off the table, fuck Trump and his wall. Flake throwing shine all over McConnell could give other GOP Senators who want to solve DACA once and for all a target other than the bellicose Trump to put pressure on. If they put pressure on McConnell to put the bipartisan DACA fix on the floor for a vote, and McConnell refuses, he faces a possible leadership rebellion in his caucus. And if he caves and calls it to the floor for a vote, he risks Trump’s ire, as well as sticking an unpalatable bill on Paul Ryan’s plate.Either way, Jeff Flake may have just created a leak in the damn that McConnell may not have a big enough finger to plug. This could get interesting long after this shutdown fight is resolved. Don’t touch that dial.