He wants to add an amendment to the defense bill that would override the president’s power to declare trade war on hostile foreign powers like … Canada by declaring them “national security threats.” Nuh uh, says McConnell. No way we’re voting on that even though, in all likelihood, literally every Republican in the Senate agrees with Corker that Trump’s steel war with the Canadians is bananas. McConnell wants to spare his members from a no-win outcome. If the amendment passes (which is likely thanks to Democratic support, even if only a few Republicans vote yes), the caucus is suddenly at war with Trump. If the amendment fails, the party will have proved that they’d rather swallow hard and ratify MAGAnomics than stick to fiscal conservative principle. Right now the main thing holding America’s western alliances (and probably the GOP itself) together is the perception that Trump is a thunderstorm that will eventually pass. An internationalist from one party or the other will take over. Just ride out the storm. If Republicans refuse to nuke Trump’s tariff policy, though, suddenly the storm looks more durable.
Corker’s display here is a vintage example of impending-retirement courage. He’s a free-trade warrior — but only because he no longer has to face voters.
“I can’t believe it!” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I would bet that 95% of the people on this (Republican) side of the aisle support intellectually this amendment — I would bet higher than 95 percent — and a lot of them would vote for it if it came to a vote.”
“But no, no, no!” Corker continued. “Gosh, ‘we might poke the bear’ is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways …. ‘The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment, so we’re going to do everything we can to block it.’”
Erick Erickson thinks the storm might pass even before Trump leaves office. I’m skeptical.
The idea, I suppose, is that stripping Trump of his “national security” tariff power will be old news by 2020, the next time they’ll face voters, if they do it ASAP after the election this year. “The bear” will forgive and forget, especially since Trump can’t afford a war with the party once he’s on the ballot himself. The lame-duck session would be as close to impending-retirement courage as non-retiring Republicans can get. It’d be rational for them to do what Erickson suggests. It’s just that … they’re so timid in the teeth of Trumpmania. They’ll find some reason not to do it, probably along the lines of “it’ll fracture the party if we take his tariff toys away from him.” Does McConnell really want to do something that’s guaranteed to make an enemy of Trump after having finally built a decent working relationship with him?
Oh, and needless to say, “the bear” to which Corker refers isn’t Trump. That may be whom Corker has in mind but in reality the bear is the unquestioning loyalty Trump enjoys from a chunk of the party. Republicans don’t care about nasty tweets except to the extent that those tweets imperil their electoral fortunes. (Right, Mark Sanford?) If they’re unwilling to risk a party fracture by standing up for what they believe on core matters like trade policy then they’re already in the bear’s stomach.