President Donald Trump’s latest controversies surrounding Russia have not gone over well with Republicans in Congress. But even worse for the GOP, they have not gone over well with the majority of American voters. As a result, Republicans on Capitol Hill are now desperately trying to find a way to distance themselves from the actions (and the words) of the president in order to avoid what they fear might be a disaster in this fall’s midterm elections.
There are less than four months until the elections, and new polls this week show Trump’s approval ratings are falling while the Democrats have increased their lead in the generic congressional ballot. A Democratic “Blue Wave” may be coming, and Republicans are trying to find some way to stop it.
Senate Republican leaders are proposing new legislation sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) that would impose stiff economic penalties on Russia if it meddles in a U.S. election in 2018 and beyond. Rubio predicted his bill could get 70 to 85 votes.
The legislation would require the director of national intelligence to tell Congress if a foreign country has interfered in a U.S. federal election. If a country (such as Russia) is found to have interfered, Congress would impose sanctions on major sectors of its economy such as finance, energy, defense and mining.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he may bring the bill straight to the floor, skipping the committee process in order to save time and get the bill passed more quickly. McConnell has previously expressed concerns about big GOP losses in the November elections so he is trying to get a bill passed to make his party look better to voters who are concerned about Trump’s actions.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday refused to answer when asked if the Trump administration supports the Rubio-Van Hollen bill.
Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia a year ago, but Trump refused to enforce them.
Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there’s evidence that Russia will try to influence the elections this November.
“What they did in 2016 was just a warmup for what they’re going to try to do in ’18. They’ve gotten increasingly more sophisticated over the years,” Cornyn said.
“I have every confidence they’ll continue to try to up their game and create more chaos,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Trump’s claim that Russia no longer poses a threat “a big disconnect.” “I’m a bit surprised by the president’s statement,” Graham told reporters.
Republicans are pushing other proposals that would label Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, impose even tougher sanctions than the Rubio-Van Hollen bill favored by GOP leaders and secure U.S. election systems from cyberattacks.
Rubio said he thought his bill would overcome a possible Trump veto, and that Trump has “a very different take on what’s occurring” than Republican senators. He said Trump’s claim that Russia no longer presents a threat “is just not true.”
He also said he wanted Congress to quickly pass his legislation.
“We’re going to have an election here very soon, and we need to act quickly to put in place penalties to discourage another attack. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to change the president’s mind on it, but I can tell you we can pass a law that does something about it,” he said.
Unfortunately, all that Marco Rubio and his Senate colleagues can do is “pass a law.” They are powerless to stop the actions of the traitor in the White House, and they are probably powerless to stop the Blue Wave. Truly the Republican Congress is now desperate to try to save themselves, but they will undoubtedly find out that what they are doing is “too little, too late.”