Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican who serves as the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, has been slightly more interested than most GOP lawmakers to display a degree of independence. Thornberry, for example, insisted that Donald Trump could not legally raid the Pentagon budget for border-wall funds.
The Texan was also among the first congressional Republicans to acknowledge Joe Biden's presidential victory.
This week, Thornberry sat down with the Dallas Morning News and expressed discomfort with many of his colleagues' recent antics.
He opined that most of his fellow Republicans who signed the amicus brief supporting the Paxton-led lawsuit "really didn't think about it that much." Instead, he said, "it was, 'OK, this was a way to support Trump. I'm going to do it.' And it's that mindless sort of obedience – and to some extent it happens in both parties, but it's more evident now in the Republican Party – that No. 1, doesn't do credit to the individuals, but secondly, it undermines our institutions," he said.
In reference to the failed anti-election lawsuit filed by his home state's Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, Thornberry added that it was a "totally bogus legal argument."
As notable as it is to see a sitting GOP congressman make comments like these on the record, all of this comes with two key caveats.
First, Mac Thornberry is retiring, and as we've seen on too many occasions, with retirement comes courage and the capacity to speak hard truths.
And second, I suspect some of the Texan's Republican brethren will see quotes like these and perceive them as a betrayal. But Thornberry is no moderate, having voted with the Trump White House's position more than 96% of the time. Evidently, the 13-term congressman simply doesn't see it as healthy for members of Congress to act like presidential employees.
He's right about this, though it will surprise no one if Trump lashes out at the retiring congressman via Twitter for daring to stray from the party line.