Thursday, April 19, 2018

Timid Trio

Enabling President Trump to continue his antisocial behavior, Jeff Flake has voted for all of the President's legislative priorities while posing as a fervent critic of Mr. Trump Therefore, at first thought, it was simply another example of Flakes' uselessness when

A confluence of events put President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead NASA on the verge of an unexpected blockade Wednesday afternoon.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona had initially voted against limiting debate on the nomination of GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, but after almost an hour, he switched his vote.

While Flake was recorded against the cloture motion on Bridenstine, the vote was deadlocked 49-49. His reversal allowed the nomination to move forward 50-48. A confirmation vote is likely before the Senate wraps up work for the week on Thursday.

Under the normal course of events, a generally partisan tie vote could have been overcome with the assistance of Vice President Mike Pence, voting to break the tie in favor of Trump’s nominee.

Wednesday, however, Pence was joining Trump for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida. So the Senate would have needed to hold open the Bridenstine vote, potentially for hours.

All 98 of the 100 senators expected to be available to vote Wednesday were present, with John McCain battling brain cancer in Arizona and Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, taking leave after giving birth on April 9.

The first thought would be inaccurate, however, as Flake appears to have gotten a concession, albeit unknown and probably minor and irreversible, from the Administration on either immigration or Cuba.

But not every Republican senator who gets an A+ on Submission 101 has gotten something in return.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asserted that (assuming it is approved next week in committee) he would not put on the floor a bipartisan, combined (Tillis-Coons/Graham-Booker) bill which would give Special Counsel Robert Mueller an opportunity to appeal a presidential decision to fire him. Though McConnell is understandably loathe to admit it, his strategy will protect members of his caucus from casting a vote, which in either direction would leave them electorally vulnerable.

However, most Republican senators, though relieved McConnell is blocking the legislation, nevertheless have a different strategic consideration:

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said Tuesday that Trump should make the decision on his own and be responsible for the consequences.

"I think having Congress tell him what we believe he should do in this case is simply poking the bear, and I'd just prefer not to do that," Rounds said.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Lankford said the bill is a "political distraction."

"You create this whole constitutional political stir over something that is not going to happen," he said.

Others said there was little point.

"It's about as popular as cholera with the leader in the Senate and it's about as popular as malaria in the House," said Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, a member of the Judiciary panel. "I think most people think we're picking an unnecessary fight with the president."

(Below: Deficit hawk Lankford pleads his concern about the deficit before voting for a tax bill increasing deficits $1.4 trillion over ten years.)

Picking a fight. Political distraction. Poking the bear.  Against such fear, logic cannot prevail, though Delaware's

Coons bristled at the criticism that the legislation is unconstitutional, noting that several courts have upheld similar special counsel statutes.

"If I were convinced this were unconstitutional, I would not be moving it," said Coons, a lawyer.

(Warning: antiquated phrases ahead.) In the bygone days of an era long gone, we youngsters would call the likes of Rounds, Lankford, and Kennedy "scaredy cats." They are frightened, craven men shivering in a corner, afraid that Donald Trump will send out an upsetting tweet if they do the wrong thing by him.

Republican Robert Mueller has been a highly decorated Marine and platoon commander, head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, and director of the FBI. That's not a bad resume, and is only part of it.

Senators Tillis, Coons, Graham, and Booker aim only to offer the Special Counsel a judicial review if removed- but there are Republican senators simply too intimidated to back their colleagues and Mueller.  Although somewhat spineless, Jeff Flake seems to be a little principled. But these other guys are damaging to the Republic and are truly wretched.

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