Republican Senators Are Quietly Turning on Trump

Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas announced on Friday that he will not seek reelection. This came as no surprise to me. Just last week I highlighted his extreme displeasure with the current status of his work environment. He compared having to endure Trump’s government shutdown to being a jackass in a hail storm: he has to just stand there and take the discomfort and indignity. Many Republicans feel the same way, especially after the Senate voted unanimously to keep the government open just before the holiday break.

Chief among them is Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama who is lamenting the fact that all of his work seems to have been for naught. For now, he’s being a good soldier by backing up President Trump’s threat to keep the government partially shuttered for months or years if he doesn’t get money from American taxpayers for the border wall. But if you want to know what he really thinks, you can look at his comments from December 30: “I found out long ago working in the Senate on the Appropriations Committee, that we’ve got to find out what do the Democrats really want here. When do they want it. And can we work with them to at least meet them halfway.” He also said, “It’s not a question of who wins or loses. Nobody’s gonna win this kind of game. Nobody wins in a shutdown. We all lose and we kind of look silly.”

Right now, reporting abounds of Republican senators and representatives privately expressing their ire at the president. Even as some questioned the motive or timing Mitt Romney’s diatribe against Trump’s character and performance in office, off the record it was widely acknowledged that everything Romney said was true. Even the pro-Trump Washington Examiner acknowledges this:

A Republican establishment impatient with President Trump but uninterested in fomenting an intraparty crackup ahead of 2020 is questioning Mitt Romney’s motivation for issuing a scathing takedown of the president.

These Republican insiders weren’t necessarily disputing Romney’s attention-grabbing Washington Post op-ed — that Trump is unfit for the presidency and driving U.S. foreign policy into a ditch. But they argued with the timing, saying it suggests the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee is all about self-promotion…

…“Everything he said is 100 percent true but the timing makes the remarks seem gratuitous,” a Republican congressman added.

So far, the public splits have been slow, but two vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in 2020, Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine, have now endorsed Nancy Pelosi’s plan to reopen the government. As Ed Kilgore notes, there’s a decent chance that Susan Collins will join Pat Roberts in the pasture rather than run for reelection, or she may be convinced to caucus with the Democrats if this shutdown actually does go on for months. Either way, the vulnerable Republicans are just the tip of the iceberg. The displeasure with Trump in the Senate is growing exponentially each day, and the shutdown is just a part of the problem. The president’s erratic behavior in foreign policy, which just led Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign on principle, is at least as big of an irritant, and his decision to praise the Soviets invasion of Afghanistan was annoying enough to earn a rebuke from none other than the infamous Wall Street Journal editorial board. In fact, the board was even more incensed about Trump’s treatment of our allies in Afghanistan today:

President Trump’s remarks on Afghanistan at his Cabinet meeting Wednesday were a notable event. They will be criticized heavily, and deservedly so…

…Mr. Trump ridiculed other nations’ commitment of troops to fight alongside America’s in Afghanistan. He said, “They tell me a hundred times, ‘Oh, we sent you soldiers. We sent you soldiers.’”

This mockery is a slander against every ally that has supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan with troops who fought and often died. The United Kingdom has had more than 450 killed fighting in Afghanistan.

Slandering and abandoning our allies is becoming the norm with this White House, but it is not going over well in Congress. At this rate, there will be more Republican retirements because no one enjoys being a jackass in this kind of hail storm.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com