President Donald Trump earned a brutal rebuke by a substantial portion of his own party as the Senate voted 59-41 on a resolution opposing his emergency declaration that reallocates funds from the military to build a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border.
A total of 12 Republicans out of the 53 in the Senate voted in favor of the resolution that would block the declaration. Trump is expected to veto the resolution, which both chambers of Congress would need a two-thirds majority to overturn.
The willingness of such a large number of Republicans to rebuke Trump on one of his central issues showed that the president’s control over his party is notably weak. On the other hand, the fact that the overwhelming majority of GOP Senators will accede to an effort that, had President Barack Obama done it, would surely have sparked calls for impeachment, shows that the party’s claims to be driven by ideology rather than the rank pursuit of power is largely hollow.
But given Trump’s substantial support among the GOP electorate despite his vulnerability on many fronts and ever-multiplying scandals, a solid bloc of Senators from his own party who are willing to break with him on this issue should be a worrying signal for the White House. With the House of Representatives firmly in Democratic control, Trump needs to be able to count on unwavering support from the Senate for protection against continuing investigations and even the threat of impeachment. Of course, there’s no sign yet that a single Republican Senator would be willing to vote to remove him from office at this point — but these are the cracks in his support Trump should fear if more damning revelations are coming down the pike.
And conservative writer Jennifer Rubin noted in the Washington Post Thursday that this isn’t the first sign that Trump’s support in the Senate is unsteady and far from unquestioning. As recently as Wednesday, some Republicans joined with Democrats to oppose the administration’s continuing support for Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen.
Trump has only himself to blame for this turn of events. His Middle East policy is adrift, his subservience to the Russians makes him look increasingly like a second-rate player. He treats the Saudis with kid gloves, which also diminishes his influence.
Had the administration not insulted our intelligence and savaged our values by supporting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s denial that he was involved in the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Senate may not have revolted. The Senate previously rebuked the administration after it infuriated lawmakers with disingenuous briefings about the murder. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo convinced no one and in the process lost any credibility on the topic of Saudi relations.
These are clear indications, she argued, that his political power is running out.
“Given how lackluster Trump’s agenda is and how inept his diplomacy is, he may well have no remarkable achievements other than confirmation of judges for the remainder of his term,” she concluded. “He’ll be spending most of his time in a defensive crouch screaming via tweet that he is a victim, trying to simultaneously maintain the pretense that he is winning. No, this is what losing looks like.”