If he keeps making their jobs harder, he’ll become a liability that the GOP can no longer tolerate.
Hours after Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and a better-late-than-never John McCain banded together to torpedo the president’s health care reform efforts in the Senate, Donald Trump took to his social media service of choice and delivered a furious screed that will one day replace Pavlov and his dogs as the definitive illustration of classical conditioning in college psychology courses everywhere.
The sun set, the sun rose, and the president tweeted some fuckshit again.
On Sunday, just once. (Because it is the Lord’s day.)
As you may recall from the Neil Gorsuch confirmation fight earlier this year, the “nuclear option” is a hypothetical change to current Senate rules that require three-fifths of the chamber to agree to end debate on a bill and proceed to vote. Mitch McConnell, a shameless liar whose only allegiance in this mortal world is to the accumulation of raw power, spearheaded the deployment of the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominees after it became clear that Gorsuch didn’t have enough support to secure confirmation under the Senate’s traditional rules.
But invoking the nuclear option for legislation is different. Senators treat the filibuster as a sacrosanct feature of their chamber’s process, arguing that it forces legislators to craft more moderate, consensus bills than that those that would emerge if only a bare majority of the Senate were sufficient. After Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation in April, 61 senators signed a bipartisan letter urging McConnell not to touch the legislative filibuster—a position that the majority leader has repeatedly and publicly endorsed. From May:
“That will not happen,” Mitch McConnell said at his weekly press
conference, when asked about changing the rules again. “There is an
overwhelming majority on a bipartisan basis not interested in changing
the way the Senate operates on the legislative calendar.”
This may surprise you, but there is a gaping hole in Trump’s tweetstorm reasoning: Senate Republicans were attempting to pass Trumpcare through reconciliation, a special procedural tool that allows the Senate to pass budget-related legislation with only 50 votes—since, in the event of a tie, Vice President Mike Pence could break it. In fact, McConnell and company specifically chose to use reconciliation because they knew that they probably couldn’t cobble together 60 votes to end a filibuster if they were to try and repeal the Affordable Care Act through the regular process. In other words, Donald Trump is effectively arguing that the real problem for a Senate that could only scrape together 49 votes to support its signature piece of legislation is that… it only needed 50, I guess.
To be fair, the president’s diatribe mentions other initiatives besides Trumpcare, and if I screw my face up tightly, shut one eye, and imagine him to be smart, maybe I can see his call to spike the legislative filibuster as a long-term ploy: Use the far-right outrage over the health care bill’s failure to pressure Senate Republicans into lowering the bar for future legislative efforts. I’m not sure this is right, though. First of all, nothing Donald Trump has ever done as president suggests that he thinks any further into the future than his next tee time. More importantly, given that McConnell couldn’t get to 50 votes on a quick-and-dirty repeal effort, it’s hard to believe that he could have gotten more votes if he had been able to include even more controversial provisions, like defunding Planned Parenthood, in the process.
The president’s seemingly uncontrollable urge to publicly humiliate his colleagues raises the question of how much longer they will put up with a gigantic liability sitting in the White House. Donald Trump is just as responsible for the GOP’s repeal effort as Mitch McConnell, or Paul Ryan, or anyone else in the Republican Party, yet when he fails, he blames everyone and everything—the media, Hillary Clinton, evil Democrats, fellow Republicans, the media again—before blaming himself. Buck-passing might be a good strategy for a middling hotelier trying to raise investor capital after another bankruptcy, but it’s a bad one for a man who is supposed to be the face of his party’s legislative agenda. McConnell probably hates being told how to do his job like this, especially by a political neophyte who didn’t understand basic elements of the late health care plan, rendering him equal parts unwilling and unable to help whip the necessary votes.
So far, McConnell and Ryan and company have quietly treated Trump’s general incompetence as an acceptable price to pay for the privilege of helming a unified Republican government. But as embarrassing high-profile losses pile up, they’ll have to decide whether having to work hand-in-glove with an unprincipled, unhinged doofus who will sell them out at the earliest possible sign of trouble is worth it. If Donald Trump really is making their jobs harder, I bet they can think of some clever ways to fix it.
Let’s Look at the Timeline Here
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