Republican Senators sending mixed messages

Sen. John McCain at a recent hearing.

It was big news on Tuesday when Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona took to the Senate floor to announce that he would not run for re-election, and to attack Donald Trump and fellow Republicans for enabling the Trump administration’s “flagrant disregard for truth or decency” and a “regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms.” Just hours later, however, Flake joined all but two of his Republican colleagues to strike down a new rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that would have allowed class action lawsuits against financial institutions for predatory and deceptive business practices. This juxtaposition between words and deeds among Republican Senators is sending a mixed message to Americans.

In recent months, two other Republican U.S. Senators — Bob Corker of Tennessee and John McCain of Arizona — similarly have criticized Donald Trump and the direction of the country under his administration, while also voting with Trump almost every time, including the class action lawsuit vote late Tuesday night (McCain’s votes against repealing the Affordable Care Act being a notable exception). Trump has gotten into sparring matches with all three Senators, and has attacked them on his favorite medium — Twitter. Here’s an example from just hours ago today:

Note that Senators Flake, Corker and McCain have one thing in common: their new-found freedom to criticize Trump seems to grow only shortly before they announce that they are retiring, in the case of Flake and Corker, or that they have terminal brain cancer, in McCain’s case. Flake and Corker would likely have faced primary challenges from the Stephen Bannon extreme right wing of the Republican Party. It appears that most Republican Senators are afraid to buck Trump or their party while they still desire a future in the Senate. One exception is Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Collins voted against the Affordable Care Act repeal, and she is not planning to retire from the Senate. Collins did, however, vote with her colleagues to repeal the CFPB class action lawsuit rule on Tuesday night.

The lesson for voters here is that, while Republican Senators might garner splashy headlines by criticizing Donald Trump, it’s not their lips we should be reading, but rather, their hands as they raise them to vote.

Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, used under Creative Commons license. https://is.gd/l7ydS1

 

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