Everybody knows that President Donald Trump has many enemies and detractors in the new Democratic-led House of Representatives.
But it’s now becoming apparent that many Republican members of Congress are also not fond of the president or his policies, and are looking for ways to distance themselves from him. The reason, they say, is to try to assure their own political survival in the future.
A new era of divided government has begun and Democrats have vowed to hold Trump accountable for all of his past, current and future misdeeds. And congressional Republicans — who have been aiding and abetting the criminal president for the past two years — know better than anyone what this means.
“Cracks in the GOP ranks have already emerged as skittish Republicans, many of whom face difficult elections in 2020, have begun asserting their independence.”
Some Republicans in Congress are now siding with Democrats in efforts to reopen the government. GOP Senator Mitt Romney of Utah wrote a very critical op-ed about the president as soon as the new Congress was in session.
In 2020, many Republicans will be up for re-election in blue or purple states and districts where voters generally are not fans of the president. In fact in these areas Trump is one of the least popular presidents in U.S. history.
And of course Democrats are already planning to take advantage of Trump’s unpopularity to win more elections and “upset the GOP’s agenda.”
Several House and Senate Republicans have broken ranks with Trump on the government shutdown by coming out in support of a Democratic proposal to re-open the government that does not include funding for the president’s border wall.
Apparently these Republicans have looked at the opinion polls which show that both the border wall and the government shutdown are VERY unpopular with a large majority of American voters. And this is especially true in those purple and blue areas where many Republicans will face tough elections in 2020.
As NBC News put it, this is “an early indication that some Republicans will have a challenging two years navigating a president who governs toward the base of the party.”
Matt Gorman who was the National Republican Campaign Committee communications director for the 2018 elections, said this about the difficult situation facing congressional Republicans:
“You’re not just walking a tight rope, you’re eating, sleeping, and breathing on it.”
Gorman said that it’s not too early for GOP candidates to be concerned about the next election. “Unlike 2018,” he said, “2020 will not be a referendum on Trump, it’ll be a choice. However, they need to be thinking about Election Day 2020 now.”
Eight House Republicans voted with Democrats on legislation that would have ended the government shutdown Thursday night. Two GOP Senators have said that the Senate should also vote on the same bills that passed in the House.
Those bills, put together by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would fund six of the seven remaining appropriations bills that had previously been approved by the Senate in the last Congress in December.
The seventh bill — to extend Department of Homeland Security funding until February 8 — would give more time to reach a compromise on the border wall funding.
Neither of the House-passed bills included any money for the president’s unpopular border wall.
GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who might have the most difficult race in in 2020, was the first Republican to come out publicly and say that the Senate should vote on the House bills to reopen the government.
He said he was well aware of the dangers of opposing Trump but said that the president understands that he has to broaden his support if he’s going to win re-election, which would in turn help Trump.
“The president also has to win the states he either barely carried or didn’t carry to win re-election,” Gardner told NBC News in an interview. “While this (border funding fight) is maybe more a base-appealing measure, there are other issues he’s going to have to do to broaden the base.”
GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, another vulnerable senator up in 2020 wrote an op-ed in The Hill floating the idea that agreement on a border wall could be coupled with relief for Dreamers in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Other Republicans have also gone public with suggestions to provide a solution to the shutdown stalemate, but these involve compromises that neither Trump nor House Democrats appear ready to make.
The Democrats plan is to put pressure on vulnerable Republicans by focusing on controversial issues. They will try to show that these GOP members of Congress have allied themselves with Trump, who has become extremely unpopular among all-important independent voters.
And the shutdown is the perfect controversial issue for Democrats to use against Republicans right now. Those who stand by Trump now may regret it during their 2020 re-election campaigns.
Democrats have already begun targeting potentially vulnerable Republicans like Gardner and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
David Bergstein, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman, said:
“Senate Republicans own every miserable consequence of their pointless shutdown and those up for election this cycle have a choice: join Democrats in reopening the government by passing the legislation they’ve already supported or give voters another reason to throw them out of office in 2020.”
Collins has said that she’d support the House bills if McConnell brings them to the floor, telling reporters she sees “no reason why the bills that are ready to go, on which we’ve achieved an agreement, should be held hostage to this debate over border security.”
Collins, Gardner and other Senate Republicans may find that their lack of action now to help end the shutdown may end up costing them in 2020. And if that happens, there is a realistic chance that Donald Trump’s radioactivity among voters may lead to the Democrats regaining control of the U.S. Senate.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.
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