Monday, May 15, 2017


Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times tells us that Republican senators are beginning to reject the president:
Senate Republicans, increasingly unnerved by President Trump’s volatility and unpopularity, are starting to show signs of breaking away from him as they try to forge a more traditional Republican agenda and protect their political fortunes.
Her evidence?
Several Republicans have openly questioned Mr. Trump’s decision to fire the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and even lawmakers who supported the move have complained privately that it was poorly timed and disruptive to their work. Many were dismayed when Mr. Trump seemed to then threaten Mr. Comey not to leak negative information about him.
Well, I don't see any of them joining with Chuck Schumer to say that the Senate shouldn't approve a new FBI director until a Russiagate special counsel is appointed. There's hand-wringing from the likes of Lindsey Graham about the possibility that Trump will choose a politician for the job, but if the past is any indication, Graham and other skeptics will fall in line no matter whom Trump chooses.

What else does Steinhauer have?
As they pursue their own agenda, Republican senators are drafting a health care bill with little White House input, seeking to avoid the public relations pitfalls that befell the House as it passed its own deeply unpopular version. Republicans are also pushing back on the president’s impending budget request — including, notably, a provision that would nearly eliminate funding for the national drug control office amid an opioid epidemic. And many high-ranking Republicans have said they will not support any move by Mr. Trump to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.
They're "drafting a health care bill with little White House input" because it's been made abundantly clear that the White House has no interest in the actual contents of health care legislation, just as long as something -- anything -- gets passed. The White House hasn't paid much attention to budget specifics either.

As for NAFTA, "many high-ranking Republicans" were resistant to an overhaul months ago -- this isn't a reaction to recent chaos in the White House. Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake were urging caution on NAFTA back in January. Texas senator John Cornyn was defending NAFTA more than two months ago.

What else?
Lawmakers are also bucking the president by pushing ahead with bipartisan measures on sanctions against Russia.
And yet The Washington Post told us this a couple of weeks ago:
Bipartisan legislation to impose sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in Ukraine, Syria and the 2016 U.S. elections is indefinitely on hold, according to the Senate’s top voice on foreign policy, likely until the Senate Intelligence Committee completes its investigation into the Kremlin’s activities.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Monday that the Senate would wait “to get some facts” before moving ahead with the bill....

The measure has support from high-ranking Democrats and Republican hawks, but struggled to get support from Corker, who earlier had insisted on renegotiating the bill before allowing it to proceed to the floor.
There was a certain amount of GOP support for Russia sanctions even before Inauguration Day -- comprehensive sanctions legislation was introduced early in January by ten senators, including four Republicans (Graham, McCain, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Rob Portman of Ohio). This isn't a case of Senate Republicans dashing for the exits because of recent actions by Trump.

Steinhauer concedes this:
So far, Republicans have refrained from bucking the president en masse, in part to avoid undermining their intense push to put health care and tax bills on his desk this year. And the Republican leadership, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, remains behind Mr. Trump.
Oh, OK. So this story is a big nothingburger.

And as we're reminded by Nate Silver,

Look, there's good stuff in The New York Times -- for instance, if you don't know what's so awful about Kris Kobach, who's heading a commission on voting for Trump, this Times story will get you up to speed. But this Steinhauer story oversells the narrative of Senate Republicans saving us from Trump's excesses and incompetence. Take it with a few grains of salt.

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