Republicans once hitched their fortunes to their perceived star, Donald J. Trump, but now with his political position weakening by the day, it looks like many are beginning to run for cover.
With Trump's poll numbers against former Vice President Joe Biden tumbling to a 15-point deficit among registered voters, scores of Republicans are dumping Trump on some of his pet issues as self preservation and their own political ambitions take hold. After all, 2024 is only four years away.
For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who sought the nomination against Trump in 2016, is warning of a conservative revolt if Republicans do not hold the spending line in the next coronavirus relief bill.
But as Senate Republicans struggled to agree on that initiative, they did make one decision that Trump will not like. They agreed not to include the payroll tax cut that he has been demanding. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had planned to reveal a $1 trillion GOP bill today, but his caucus couldn't agree on details. Meanwhile, the House approved a $3 trillion bill in May that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says will be their starting point in negotiations with the Senate.
Said Trump on Twitter, "The Democrats have stated strongly that they won’t approve a Payroll Tax Cut (too bad!). It would be great for workers. The Republicans, therefore, didn’t want to ask for it. Dems, as usual, are hurting the working men and women of our Country!"
Only one problem. It was the Republicans who killed that provision in the bill.
The Senate Republicans' plan would greatly reduce enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 per week for millions of workers that was approved in March, even though the Labor Department reported that weekly unemployment claims increased to 1.4 million last week. That benefit is set to expire next week. Republicans contend the benefit provides an incentive for many people to stay home from work.
Meanwhile, 72 Republicans in the House of Representatives joined with Democrats to vote to remove statues of Confederate leaders in the Capitol and replace the bust of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. chief justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision that said people of African descent are not U.S. citizens. The Taney bust would be replaced by one of Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court's first black member.
That action by those Republicans is sure to anger Trump, who repeatedly has expressed his opposition to removing such statues from public places. However, the legislation faces a stiff challenge in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has said the decision should be left to the states.
However, that very Republican-controlled Senate appears ready to order the Pentagon to rename bases honoring Confederate generals, despite Trump's veto threat.
The directive to rename those bases is part of Senate and House versions of a $740 billion military spending bill, and was included in a list of objections by White House, which contended it was an “effort to erase from the history of the Nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct.” The House passed its version of the defense bill by a veto-proof majority. There are 10 Army posts named for Confederate generals.
Are these isolated instances? Does the fact that some Republicans in Congress actually are willing to defy Trump, to whom most have paid homage for the last three-plus years, really mean anything for the future?
We will see. But one thing is certain. Politicians are self-preservationists of the first order, especially where their own political futures are concerned. So if Trump has to go for them to survive? No problem.