IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The biggest problem with GOP moderates 'seething' at Biden

A group of 10 deal-making "moderate" Senate Republicans are frustrated with the White House. Maybe the problem is that they're not actually moderates?
United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington on Jan. 15, 2020.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

The headline on the Politico piece this morning said there's a group of "moderate Republicans" on Capitol Hill who are "seething" at President Joe Biden. Naturally, I clicked the link, but not because I wanted to know why these GOP lawmakers are so upset. More on that in a moment.

According to the report, a group of 10 deal-making "moderate" Senate Republicans -- whom Politico referred to as "the G-10" -- is frustrated by the "nightmare" the Democratic White House has created. These senators "insist they're itching to negotiate deals" with Biden, but they've been stymied and "marginalized."

The staffer who lamented the nightmare of it all had a grudging respect for how effectively Biden had played things so far. "Everything they support is defined as either Covid relief or infrastructure, and everything they oppose is like ... Jim Crow voter suppression and evil," this G-10 aide said. "And you constantly just feel like you're in this gaslighting chamber of insanity. But it's working."

To drive the point home, the piece pointed to the White House inviting GOP lawmakers to negotiate on the COVID relief package, only to have Democrats move on without them, and the likelihood that the same thing will happen on the president's American Jobs Plan, with Democrats likely to ignore the Republicans' infrastructure plan, too.

There's a lot wrong with this perspective. We could start, for example, with the fact that the GOP's counterproposal on the American Relief Plan was so woeful, it was impossible to take seriously, and it made the Dems' go-it-alone approach inevitable. Had Republicans come up with a credible offer, they likely could've made the relief package much smaller, but they blew it by aiming too low.

We could also note that the Republicans' infrastructure plan isn't getting much attention from Biden and his party because, as of now, the plan does not exist in any meaningful form.

We could even note that Republicans are often derided for pursuing "Jim Crow voter suppression" measures because the party is doing exactly that.

But while each of these points is important, I was far less interested in why these senators are "seething" and more interested in the idea that there are 10 Republican senators who apparently consider themselves deal-making "moderates." From the Politico report:

The "G-10" senators are: SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO of West Virginia, BILL CASSIDY of Louisiana, SUSAN COLLINS of Maine, JERRY MORAN of Kansas, LISA MURKOWSKI of Alaska, ROB PORTMAN of Ohio, MITT ROMNEY of Utah, MIKE ROUNDS of South Dakota, THOM TILLIS of North Carolina and TODD YOUNG of Indiana.

Look, I realize ideological labels are subjective. Observers often disagree on who's in the "mainstream," and who's on the "fringe."

But given the degree to which these Republicans voted with the Trump White House most of the time, it's very difficult to believe this contingent has earned the "moderate" label.

Indeed, that G-10 list reinforces the larger problem of why meaningful, bipartisan deal-making in the Senate is effectively impossible: if you were a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, and you had a choice between passing good bills and making each of these 10 conservative senators happy, you'd embrace the budget reconciliation process with both arms, too.