In this transition period, Trump has advanced three key tests of his fellow Republicans’ continued loyalty: whether they would support his push to raise the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 (a move that nearly scuttled the bipartisan government-spending package and COVID relief deal); whether they’d back his veto of the defense-funding bill; and whether they’d challenge Joe Biden’s electors during Congress’s certification of the results on Jan. 6. A fourth test, this week’s Senate runoffs in Georgia, will also be a measure of the political cost Republicans bear when unequivocally embracing Trump in a battleground state.
What’s been fascinating is how most Republicans have broken with Trump on policy grounds, feeling little commitment to back him on legislation that defies conservative principles. Republicans are still the party of a strong national defense and opposing free giveaways, despite Trump’s Twitter pressure. Only 66 of 195 House Republicans (and seven of 53 GOP senators) voted to sustain Trump’s veto of the defense authorization bill. And just 44 House Republicans supported more-generous stimulus checks, as even plenty of Trump’s most slavish allies in Congress broke with him. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even allow a standalone vote on the larger checks. (Notably, most of the GOP support for the $2,000 stimulus checks comes from more-moderate lawmakers, many hailing from swing districts.)