Friday, October 28, 2016

What Check? Congress Could Never Control Trump

It's fantasy to argue that GOP lawmakers would be a check on a President Trump. Here's why.
Donald Trump’s small band of intellectual defenders can no longer claim that he is good man. Instead, they say that his dishonesty and cruelty are acceptable because Congress could check him if he really got out of hand. Like so much else about the Trump campaign, this assertion rests on fantasy.
Although an unusual number of Republican lawmakers have come out against him, most have not. Several who called on him to drop out of the race have since said that they will vote for him anyway. Why are so many siding with a candidate who is so unfit? High on the list of probable motives is fear of a challenge in a future GOP primary. In recent years, some high-profile Republicans have either lost to a hard-line conservative (for instance, former House majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia) or endured an unexpectedly tough battle (Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi). Trump supporters are vocal and zealous, so it is not hard to picture them working to oust Republicans disloyal to their man.
If GOP lawmakers are cowering before candidate Trump, how could they stand up to President Trump? In addition to his wealth and political base, he would wield the vast power of the executive branch. There is little doubt that he'd use it to punish those who displease him. After House Speaker Paul Ryan said he'd no longer defend his bad behavior, Trump hinted at a leadership purge, saying, “I would think that Ryan wouldn't be there.”
In light of such threats, Republicans would hesitate to oppose Trump’s choices for federal office or hold tough investigations into his management of the government. And it is hard to imagine that they'd reach for the ultimate weapon of impeachment. "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," Trump said back in January. That is only a slight exaggeration, at least as far as it applies to his core supporters.
Maybe congressional Republicans would suddenly get a miraculous infusion of courage and institutional fidelity. And maybe rainwater would turn into beer. But I would not count on it. As Ryan acknowledges: “Under both parties, the presidency keeps breaking the rules, and Congress keeps allowing it to happen.”
Read the rest from this USA TODAY op-ed HERE.

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