Quick quiz: I’ll describe the conditions, and you guess whether I’m referring to the House or the Senate. Rank-and-file Republican members are increasingly frustrated with their leader, as GOP lawmakers reject their own proposals and prioritize Donald Trump’s interests above all.
It’s a bit of a trick question, of course, because I’m describing conditions in the House and the Senate.
On Sunday, Sen. Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic architect of a bipartisan border plan, helped unveil the legislation that was four months in the making. On Monday, the Connecticut senator watched as Republicans scrambled to kill his handiwork. And so, a day later, Murphy appeared on the Senate floor, not only to defend the bill he believed in, but also to throw a few elbows at his GOP colleagues.
“There used to be a difference between House Republicans and Senate Republicans,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “I used to explain this fact to my constituents all the time. I’d defend my Senate Republican colleagues; I’d explain how Trump doesn’t control the Senate Republican Caucus like he controls the House. I don’t think that’s true any longer. I think this conference is just as big a mess as the conference in the House.”
He concluded that this breakdown is “terrible” for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “the one group of Republicans that used to be able to exercise original thought and independent judgment now just seems to be another subsidiary of the Trump campaign.”
This might not be immediately obvious to those outside of Capitol Hill, but senators do not like being compared to House members. (If you want to get an ugly look, call a senator “congressman.” Lasers practically shoot from their eyes.) With this in mind, Murphy’s assessment was brutal.
It was also true. The Washington Post’s Paul Kane explained:
Once the self-proclaimed grown-ups of their party, Senate Republicans are at risk of descending into a rudderless caucus incapable of following through on basic pledges. ... They are starting to resemble their counterparts in the House, where the GOP caucus already ejected one speaker and has left the successor powerless to do anything without massive Democratic support.
GOP senators have long presented themselves as stately and mature. The lower chamber can have their rambunctious members and chaotic fights, but in the upper chamber, members of the World’s Most Deliberative Body recognize the importance of serious policymaking.
I hope Senate Republicans enjoyed that reputation, because they’ve ruined it.