Despite having Republicans at its helm, the Senate is proving to be far from squarely behind all of GOP President Donald Trump’s stances — and even is looking to restrict some of his choices.
This week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) backed a bill approved 97-2 that allows Congress to block Trump from curbing or changing sanctions against Russia.
“This administration has been too eager — far too eager, in my mind — to put sanctions relief on the table,” Schumer said.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Russia hawk who has also taken public abuse from Trump, argued that the Moscow regime interfered in last year’s U.S. election.
“Vladimir Putin’s brazen attack on our democracy is a flagrant demonstration of his disdain and disrespect for our nation,” McCain said.
While the bill’s fate is uncertain in the House, it sends Trump a broad warning message. So does a close vote by which the Senate approved a Trump-touted weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, from which Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) dissented.
By midweek, it was reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to open an investigation into the circumstances under which Trump fired James Comey as FBI director.
Whatever its outcome, such an inquiry would take away from the president’s agenda. The Senate Intelligence Committee already provided a forum for Comey’s critical testimony earlier this month. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has demanded release of any “recordings” of controversial talks Comey had with the president, possibly calling a Trump bluff.
Flake, a consistent Trump critic, is facing a primary back home.
Even before Trump took the oath of office in January, the Senate chamber held an array of GOP members Trump alienated on the campaign trail: Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, most clearly.
Some reconciliation has followed, but it is far from complete.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska recently published a book called “The Vanishing American Adult.” He told Politico that Trump “comes out of a reality TV world . . . and I have lots of anxiety about whether or not that kind of world is really what we want for our kids.”
When Trump celebrated an agreement on a health care bill with the House majority, McConnell made it clear that his house would dismantle the measure — which Trump has now called “mean” and said it does not authorize enough spending.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), not known to be a Trump fan, said this week the Senate should not “move so fast that we don’t get it right.”
The Senate’s effort on the issue remains murky.