As the United States Senate returns after yet another vacation its workload has been increased dramatically by President Donald Trump. I’m still not on the Trump Train but I do admire his work ethic and now his expectation that others should demonstrate a similar one.
To date, with the exception of the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, the Republican controlled Senate has accomplished precisely nothing. The Republicans have NOT repealed and replaced Obamacare. They have NOT adopted a budget resolution. They have NOT provided a tax reduction and tax reform. They have NOT provided any solution to the immigration mess including securing the borders. They have, however, taken numerous vacations and worked three days per week. They have also spent an inordinate amount of time criticizing President Trump and each other. For a group of men and women who have accomplished nothing their criticism of others rings pretty hollow.
Now to the list of things that Congress has not accomplished, Mr. Trump has added consideration of new sanctions against Iran by refusing to certify that Iran is in compliance with the total capitulation to Iran negotiated by former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry. And even as one-sided as the deal is, Iran bars inspection of any installation deemed a military installation by Iran and where weapon production is generally conducted. How the State Department could certify that Iran is in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action when it lacks access to verification is beyond me. Be that as it may, by refusing to certify that Iran is in compliance Mr. Trump has tossed the issue to Congress where the Republicans constantly bitched and moaned about it terms and conditions and yet handed Mr. Obama a victory by agreeing that it would take a two-thirds vote of the Senate to reject the agreement – not a two-thirds vote to accept the agreement. And this was done while the Republicans under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) controlled the Senate with an even larger majority than they currently have. Congress now has sixty days to decide whether to impose new sanctions on Iran as a result of its non-compliance.
Not to worry, however. The Senate cannot decide which color of shoes to wear in sixty days let alone undertake consideration of new sanctions against Iran. Nothing will get done and Mr. Trump will be tasked with deciding whether to withdraw the United States from the agreement.
But there is more. Mr. Trump issued an order to immediately cut off the illegal payment of subsidies to insurance companies under Obamacare. A federal court had previously ruled that only Congress could authorize the payments of such subsidies through the appropriations process. That ruling came during Mr. Obama’s tenure and he simply chose to ignore it and continued to authorize the payments in direct violation of the law and the order of the court – so much for being a self-proclaimed “constitutional law scholar.”
Mr. Trump continued to authorize payments in hopes that congressional Republicans would do as they promised the electorate – repeal and replace Obamacare. They did not. They will not. Congress, having failed to act, left the President no choice but to follow the law and tell Congress that if it wants to authorize subsidies to the insurance companies that it would have to specifically appropriate the moneys to do so. They won’t. They can’t. And don’t look for any help from the Democrats – their solution is to simply spend more money propping up the failing Obamacare.
And don’t forget that Mr. Trump handed Congress the responsibility of dealing with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which was illegally implemented by Mr. Obama in yet another unconstitutional exercise of executive power. Basically, Mr. Trump has rescinded the illegal order but deferred implementation for six months to allow Congress to act. Mr. Trump has acknowledged that he is supportive of the intent of Mr. Obama’s illegal executive order but will not continue flaunting the law as did Mr. Obama – again so much for Mr. Obama being a self-proclaimed “constitutional scholar.” Mr. Trump has asked Congress to act to provide relief to those covered by DACA and to go further by enacting an overall immigration reform package.
It’s not that the Republican members of Congress, particularly in the Senate, are incompetent. Rather they are paralyzed by fear of being criticized no matter what path they take. It is easier to not act and blame others than to act and be responsible. The sole goal of these members is to be re-elected – to retain power. I have never understood why you would want to acquire power if you will not use it – preferably for the benefit of those who elected you. But for members of Congress – and again particularly the Senate – the title and the deference to the title appears to be more important than action.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) epitomizes this vanity of elitism. There he is – all 5’7”, perpetually tanned, his white hair perfectly coifed in a pompadour, clad in a meticulously tailored Savile Row suit, set off by the elite’s preferred blue shirt with white collar and matching cuffs. He is straight out of central casting and just as empty and vacuous as the mannequins he emulates. A list of Mr. Corker’s congressional accomplishments would fill a – well a hyphen – meaning that he is best known for opposing legislation to avoid responsibility for anything that might come of its adoption. So fearful is he of having to accept responsibility for his actions that he has chosen to retire rather than risk defeat in a probable primary challenge without Mr. Trump’s endorsement.
But Mr. Corker appears to be a part of an unintended cabal hell bent on denying Mr. Trump any progress on his political agenda. He joins the despicable Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and the poster boys of the Republican elites – Mr. McConnell, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and even sore loser Sen. Ted Cruz – (R-TX). (One is tempted to include Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) but Mr. Paul is more a victim of his insistence that perfect is the constant enemy of good.) But these senators and others like them in both the House and the Senate are facing an unexpected dilemma. The legislation that they would deny Mr. Trump is precisely the legislation upon which they ran in the last four elections – repeal Obamacare, increased border security, tax reductions and reform, a return to the rule of law and a stronger military. If their plan is to deny Mr. Trump any legislative successes to ensure his defeat in 2020, they will ensure their own defeat in 2018 and 2020.
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
I have little faith in the Congress – particularly the Senate. Unless things change dramatically in the next two and one-half months, Sen. Chuck Schummer (D-NY) will replace Mr. McConnell as Senate Majority Leader and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) will see his majority reduced to a razor thin margin. But of a more lasting consequence is that should this happen it is likely that, on a national level, the Republican Party will become as impotent as they are in overwhelmingly liberal Oregon for an extended period of time.
It may be time to start seriously thinking about a new national political party.