Trump: These Senate Republicans negotiating with Biden on infrastructure are suckers

I’m tempted to try to find something strategic in this but I think he was probably just looking for another excuse to lash out at McConnell, whom he’s newly mad at again for the big Bill Barr scoop published over the weekend. McConnell apparently put Barr up to announcing last December that the DOJ hadn’t seen evidence of widespread voter fraud. Trump never forgave Barr for that and he’ll never forgive McConnell for his role in it.

Of course, he was already intent on never forgiving McConnell after McConnell tore into him in his speech following the impeachment trial in February. The Barr story just adds to the accumulating grievances.

There may be no strategic motive to this statement but it could make a big strategic impact on Senate Republicans mulling whether to support a deal with Biden. Did Trump just tank the infrastructure negotiations from the sidelines?

“Only bad things can happen.” He’s teeing up righty critics to attack any deal as a grand sellout to the left. How many Republicans worried about a primary will be willing to vote yes and risk being lambasted for it by MAGA, and possibly by Trump himself?

Look at the list of 11 Republicans who have been negotiating with Biden. Let’s see if we can figure out which ones are likely to not care about Trump’s opposition to a deal and which are apt to buckle.

Richard Burr
Rob Portman
Bill Cassidy
Susan Collins
Lisa Murkowski
Mitt Romney
Lindsey Graham
Mike Rounds
Thom Tillis
Jerry Moran
Todd Young

We can split them into four groups. Burr and Portman are the retirees, the senators in their final term. Trump has little leverage over them as a result and they’re already proved it. Burr voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial and Portman voted in favor of a January 6 commission. They’re free to go their own way. Next are the mavericks, Cassidy, Romney, Collins, and Murkowski. Each of them voted to convict Trump as well. They’ve already decided that they’re willing to risk MAGA’s wrath in the name of doing what they think is right so they’re also still gettable.

The third group is the mainline Republicans, Graham, Rounds, and Tillis. None of them are up for reelection next year so they can probably get away with voting yes. But each has reason to worry about getting crosswise with Trump; if he bears them a grudge it’ll create problems for them down the round. They’re iffier but still could vote yes. The final group is the most questionable, the Republicans who are up in 2022. That’s Moran and Young. Each represents a solid red state and has little to fear in the general election but they’re at serious risk of a primary if Trump makes enemies of them for negotiating with Biden.

If Schumer loses Moran and Young, he’s at 59 votes for a bipartisan infrastructure bill. One shy of what he needs. This wouldn’t be the first time citizen Trump had succeeded in marshaling Republican opposition to pending legislation either. Remember that he came out with a statement slamming the January 6 commission not long before Senate Republicans tanked the bipartisan House bill to establish one.

Just because Moran and Young might parachute out doesn’t mean Schumer won’t still find 10 Republicans to support the deal. There are 39 others in the GOP caucus who might conceivably support the deal, including Mitch McConnell. But that’s what I mean about Trump’s statement having strategic impact even if it didn’t have strategic intent. Because McConnell is forever positioning the caucus for success in the next election, he may calculate that siding with Biden over Trump on infrastructure would hurt the GOP in the midterms. It’d be bad enough to hand Biden a big win but to do so against Trump’s express wishes is inviting a party rift:

But the GOP leader also doesn’t want Republicans to be cast as the villains by Biden in a story about why the bipartisan deal failed. Such a narrative, if used effectively, could hurt the GOP as it seeks to win back the Senate majority next year, when Republicans will be defending several vulnerable seats…

The GOP leader told reporters in Louisville, Ky., on Monday, “I haven’t decided yet,” but gave himself an escape by emphasizing that he wants to see a budget analysis on the bipartisan deal to ensure it won’t add significantly to the soaring deficit.

“We need to get a score, so we need to see whether the proposal is credibly paid for,” he cautioned.

Cassidy said a few days ago that he thought McConnell would back the bill. Does he still think so now that Trump has declared it to be anathema?

The other potential strategic impact here is how Trump’s opposition to a deal might affect Republican voters’ opinion. To my surprise, a poll out yesterday has a majority of GOPers in favor of a compromise — with a higher share of support than Democrats:

I suppose that makes sense given the alternative, a multi-trillion-dollar “human infrastructure” mega-bill packed to the gills with social-welfare spending. If something’s going to be done on infrastructure, and it seems that it will be, Republicans figure it’s better to have the Senate GOP involved targeting the spending at roads and bridges than let Democrats do everything via reconciliation.

The question is whether they’ll still feel that way once they find out that Trump is opposed, and how Senate Republicans will react if support among the base begins to crumble.

As for Democrats, moderates in the House are getting nervous about being taken hostage by progressives, who want the “human infrastructure” reconciliation component of this package to be $6 trillion or whatever. That’s why they’re eager for Pelosi to insist that the bipartisan bill won’t be voted on until they have a reconciliation bill in hand too. They want to make sure that Joe Manchin and the centrist Senate Dems don’t screw them by passing the bipartisan bill and then waiting for that to pass the House and be signed by Biden before turning around and saying, “Eh, you know what? We don’t really need all that welfare spending anyway.” The good news for them is that Manchin told MSNBC today that he fully intends to do a “human infrastructure” bill via reconciliation. Having committed that way publicly, I don’t think he can back out. The bad news for them is that the final price tag won’t be anywhere near $6 trillion. It’ll be skinnier, which will make centrist House Dems happier while passing off the Squad. Cam Pelosi thread the needle and find 218 votes between them for whatever compromise emerges?