President Donald Trump has “shocked” many conservative
Republicans by negotiating with congressional Democrats
over some key legislation. From their reactions you might
think the Republican chief executive has abandoned his own
party after only eight months in office.
In reality, it’s the other way around.
To be fair, most Republicans in the U.S. house and senate are
supporting the administration’s agenda, but a sufficient
number of them are blocking passage of legislation promised
by their party and its candidates in the 2016 election.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has tried to unify his GOP
members, but about 30 who also belong to the so-called
Freedom Caucus have prolonged the congressional stalemate
inherited from the Obama administration terms. Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been burdened by
archaic senate rules and procedures, and could not even pass
a modified Obamacare repeal bill. Tax reform in both houses
of Congress has also been reportedly blocked by dissension
in the GOP caucus. As if that were not enough, a few
“anti-Trump” incumbent GOP senators have been openly
attacking the president.
President Trump is not only an anti-establishment
“disrupter,” he, as a lifelong businessman, is not used to the
compulsive inaction of Congress. There are those who
sincerely disagree with his agenda for change (and that
includes most Democrats), but he was elected on several
policy promises to voters who expect him, his administration
and the Congress his party controls, to deliver on those
Speaker Ryan finally did pass an Obamacare repeal and
replacement bill, and has also passed other legislation that
has not yet been passed or, in many cases, not yet even been
brought up for debate in the senate. Majority Leader McConnell
has been reluctant to bypass old (and past their due date) rules.
His majority is very small, and when 2 or 3 GOP senators fail to
vote with him, he cannot pass legislation.
An arcane and thoroughly indefensible rule also permits a single
senator to block a federal judicial confirmation, as egregiously
illustrated in Minnesota where Trump appeals court nominee
David Stras is prevented from taking office because two liberal
Minnesota senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, refuse to
return a “blue slip.” Currently a highly respected state supreme
court justice, Mr. Stras has been openly supported by virtually
the entire legal profession in his home state, including most of
his liberal and Democratic colleagues. Mr. Franken opposes
Justice Stras on the grounds he is a principled conservative,
and not for any other stated reason. Senator Klobuchar has
soiled her previous bipartisan reputation by also withholding
her “blue slip” --- although so far without explanation.
The overriding constitutional tradition is that the president
who wins the election gets to appoint federal judges, subject to
a confirmation vote in the U.S. senate. The rule that permits a
single senator to block this can only be described as contrary
to constitutional intent.
President Trump is only one among many conservatives and
independents urging Mr. McConnell to abandon the “blue slip”
rule. So far he has not done so. So far, Justice Stras has not
even had a senate vote.
Faced with stalemate in Congress, and time running out in the
national mid-term elections next year. what can be done?
Apparently, “Dr.” Trump has decided to apply some shock
therapy to his own caucus in the Congress. Not a political
ideologue, and a inherent “deal maker,” he has opened
conversations with the opposition to see what legislation can
be passed. The national interest is pressing us for action, Mr.
Trump is saying, and if you in Congress don’t unify behind
your own leaders, the administration will deal with those who
All members of the U.S. house and one-third of the U.S.
senate are up for re-election next year. Mr. Trump does not
run again until 2020. Since beginning his conversations with
Democrats, Mr. Trump’s poll numbers have jumped
Republican legislators are right to be concerned about
President Trump’s bipartisan moves, but they should not turn
their alarm on him. They should simply look in the mirror.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.