THE WASHINGTON POST OPINIONS
A bill to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 14-to-7 vote. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) won’t bring it to the floor since he has been assured that President Trump won’t fire Mueller. And we all know Trump’s word is his bond. (Yeah, right.)
Some Republicans have been fretting about a trade war. Trump, in what must be a move in 12-dimensional chess (for otherwise it would be inexplicably dumb), is headed to a Group of Seven meeting with the intent of antagonizing our closest allies and trading partners. (The Post reports: “President Trump plans to confront other world leaders at a summit in Quebec on Friday over what he believes is a global economic system tilted against the United States, several people briefed on the plan said, escalating tensions with U.S. allies who have expressed outrage at his pivot toward protectionism.”) The president seems entirely oblivious that the international trade system America helped create has inured to our benefit. The economy he keeps bragging about co-exists with large trade deficits with several partners — who then use U.S. dollars to invest in the United States and hire U.S. workers. (The nerve!)
McConnell says tariffs hurt his home state of Kentucky. So will he be bringing up a bill being drafted by two Republicans — Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) — to recapture the power to enact tariffs that Congress had previously ceded to the president? Nope. The Post reports:
“Items as contentious as that’s likely to be, we’ll see, but I’m not going to call it up free-standing,” McConnell told reporters at his weekly press conference. “You’re suggesting it might be offered as an amendment. [The National Defense Authorization Act] is going to be open, we’ll see what amendments are offered.” . . .
GOP leaders have said they do not want to bring up a bill that Trump would be certain to veto. Coming ahead of November’s midterm elections, it might be a tough vote for some Republicans to cross their president. Collecting the 60 votes necessary to pass the legislation in the Senate would be difficult, and 67 votes would be required to overturn a presidential veto.
Democrats must be licking their chops. Even when Republicans admit Trump is going down a dangerous road, and rhetorically object to destructive policies, they haven’t the nerve to challenge him. Even actual lap dogs aren’t this timid. Democrats can make a very persuasive case that Republicans have violated their oaths and betrayed their constituents out of sheer cowardice. They are so nervous about a harsh tweet, they will drop or change any protection, avoid any oversight obligation and rubber stamp any unfit nominee for federal office so as to avoid offending Trump. If voters want a Senate that is going to act like part of an equal branch of government and represent their interests, they need a new majority. The only way that happens, the argument will go, is by voting against every candidate with an “R” after his or her name. Even if voters sort of like their Republican senator, a vote for him or her means the Senate remains inert and unresponsive to everyone not named Trump.
The same holds true for open seats. In Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the likely GOP Senate nominee, is getting pummeled by the likely Democratic nominee, former governor Phil Bredesen, for her lackluster response to Trump’s tariffs. The makers of Jack Daniel’s, the iconic Tennessee whiskey, are threatened by retaliatory tariffs that are being to be leveled by Mexico, Canada and the European Union. Bredesen blasted out a statement: “The effect of these tariffs is just like a new tax on Tennesseans. They will drive up prices, hurt our economy and will cost jobs, especially in our important automotive sector.” He continued, “The retaliatory tariffs that are promised to follow will hurt our exports, damaging farmers and even hitting iconic Tennessee businesses like Jack Daniel’s.” He declared, “We must have sensible and immediate help from both sides of the aisle to turn this around before it does real damage. This is Washington political games out of control.” What has Blackburn said? She’s “concerned.” It’s noteworthy that Corker, whose seat Blackburn is running to fill, is at the forefront of this fight. (No wonder Corker says he won’t criticize his friend Bredesen.)
Whether it is health-care prices, tariffs, assaults on the rule of law, virulent corruption or a nonexistent infrastructure plan, the Senate’s GOP leadership has chosen to align itself entirely with Trump, even at the expense of their voters and their once-declared principles. Even for Republicans, it is a powerful argument that the country would be better off voting for moderate Democrats who will flip the majorities in the House and Senate. Now let’s see if Democrats are smart enough to make that case and run compelling candidates in competitive seats.