Has the GOP’s ill-treated congressional crew finally reached the moment where they muster the mettle to mount a mutiny against their crazed captain?
After all, the storm-tossed USS Trump is a crippled ship, masts shattered, sails tattered, hull leaking. And yet, rather than regroup, rethink, and repair, the wild-eyed skipper is stalking the decks raving “repeal Obamacare” — and demanding that his beleaguered men make yet another attempt to round the Cape of Lost Hope. Other times, arms flailing and eyes darting, he mutters “big beautiful wall, big beautiful wall,” and threatens to run the ship of state onto No Revenue Reef if his men won’t set out in pursuit of the white whale that goes by that name.
Which leaves the Republican swabs with a choice. Do they stay with a mercurial captain who has gotten little done beyond selecting a qualified conservative jurist to fill the Supreme Court seat the GOP snaffled from Merrick Garland? Or do they launch a lifeboat, steer away from the political wreckage, and chart their own course?
“I think most of the Republicans in the Congress realize that they are going to have to take the ball and run with it if they are going to get anything accomplished,” says pollster and consultant Whit Ayres, who has advised Senators Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, and Bob Corker, among others.
“Most of the Republicans in the Senate are perfectly willing to do it at this point,” he continues. “Trump has attacked their leader, attacked members of the caucus. If anything, Trump has united the caucus by going after some of them so aggressively.”
Former Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire is sounding similar themes, telling The New York Times this week that the Republican-led Congress may have to go it alone if Trump “can’t participate constructively.”
Under such a scenario, Congress would pass legislation without any White House direction or participation and put it on an accomplishment-hungry president’s desk with this implicit message: Take it or leave it. That is, sign it or veto it. Regardless of what Trump did, Republican congressfolk could then say that they, at least, had been able to get something done.
To be sure, there are skeptics. And problems.
The GOP’s congressional wing is simply too captive to right-wing interests and activists to function as a serious governing party, says Thomas Mann, a resident scholar at University of California Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. “They are not in the business of finding remedies to well-known problems,” says Mann. “It is an utterly unserious party.”
And a party with a serious structural problem: In the House, the zealously right-wing Freedom Caucus can drag legislation so far to starboard that it’s unlikely to clear the Senate even with a majority vote, let alone attract the 60 senators needed should there be a
“I guarantee you that members of the Senate are more frustrated with Republicans in the House than they are with the president,” says Republican National Committeeman Ron Kaufman, who served as political director in George H.W. Bush’s White House.
Republican pragmatists could work with Democratic moderates, of course. But despite the talk of more bipartisan dealings, Kaufman doubts enough Democrats would support anything palatable to enough Republicans for any noteworthy legislation to pass.
Certainly after the obstructionist way congressional Republicans treated former President Obama, Democrats have little incentive beyond self-interest.
Yet there are some possibilities that might be marketed as necessary national fixes.
Now that the effort to repeal Obamacare has failed, the two sides could work together on an ACA repair plan. Or a bipartisan package on infrastructure. If, that is, Republicans can get the basics like funding the government and increasing the debt ceiling done.
Time is short — and the ship is