President Donald Trump’s threats just don’t carry much weight with congressional Republicans, who privately admit he’s a lightweight.
Trump has been unable to rally his fellow Republicans behind health care, which passed the House but remains in doubt in the Senate, and other major issues, leaving him with only the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch as his only real accomplishment after five months in office, reported the Washington Post.
Republican lawmakers privately told the newspaper that Trump and his promises — like forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall — aren’t really taken seriously on Capitol Hill.
“I handle the Trump administration the same way I handled the Obama administration,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), whose district Trump lost by 16 point. “When I agree, I work with them. When I oppose, I don’t.”
GOP lawmakers expressed frustration with Trump’s tweets, which show he lacks focus and consistency, and they told the Post the president shows little command of policy issues — and, perhaps most damaging, they’ve stopped fearing him.
“They have come to regard some of his threats as empty, concluding that crossing the president poses little danger,” the newspaper reported.
One senior Republican who is close to the White House and many senators described Trump and his political operation as “a paper tiger,” and said GOP lawmakers feel free to “react to what they see if the political marketplace” and disregard the president.
A GOP consultant put things even more bluntly.
“When you have a 35 percent approval rating and you’re under FBI investigation, you don’t have a hammer,” said GOP consultant John Weaver, an outspoken Trump critic.
Trump’s meeting with Republican senators appears to have changed little about the health care bill’s fortunes, although it’s not dead yet.
“The House health care vote shows he does have juice, particularly with people on the right,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. “The Senate health care vote shows that people feel that health care is a defining issue and that it’d be pretty hard for any politician to push a senator into taking a vote that’s going to have consequences for the rest of their life.”
A reporter asked Graham whether he personally feared Trump, who once gave out the senator’s cell phone number on the campaign trail.
“Graham chuckled before saying, ‘No,'” the Post reported.