“There’s an old story about a freshman member of the House who is getting shown around by a senior member on his first day, and the freshman asks about the other party. ‘I want to meet the enemy,’ he says. ‘No, son,’ says the old bull, ‘they’re the opposition. The Senate is the enemy.’”

That story shows that philosophy may not be the most important thing in Washington, but rather, process and/or the source of power. Donald Trump blames Democrats if he is frustrated, but the truth is, Democrats are irrelevant in Washington now. The real power struggle is between Trump and the Senate.

Trump was particularly chagrined by the bill that hit his desk to punish Russia. He didn’t like it, but he’s all about image, and it looks better to complain about signing a bill than to veto it and be humiliated with an override. Also, in the middle of an investigation of his ties with Russia, a veto would look suspicious, indeed.

In effect, the measure would sharply limit Mr. Trump’s ability to suspend or lift sanctions on Russia — handcuffing a sitting president just six months into his term with the nearly unanimous support of a Republican-led Congress.

Then, there was the move to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump had floated a “trial balloon,” to gauge public reaction to his assertion that he could fire Mueller and end the Russia investigation. That was not received well by the public, and now the Senate plans to prevent Trump from canning Mueller, according to The Hill.

Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). . .said Thursday that the effort “reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances” and would help ensure “investigatory independence” for special counsels. . .

In an interview with The New York Times last month, Trump said he wouldn’t rule out firing Mueller while warning the special counsel against investigating his family’s finances beyond the scope of the Russia probe.

The special counsel investigation has moved into a new phase with the impaneling of a grand jury in Washington, with reports this week that subpoenas have been issued.

Then there’s the attack by Trump on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as discussed by Fox News. That didn’t sit well with his former colleagues in the Senate. In fact, Business Insider reports that Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has said Trump might have to do without an attorney general if he fires Sessions.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would hold such a hearing, said in a tweet on Wednesday night that there was “no way” it would hold one in 2017.

Of course, if Trump fired Sessions while the Senate was on break, Trump could make a recess appointment. But the Senate saw that coming, and they’re making that option impossible.

The Senate blocked President Trump from being able to make recess appointments on Thursday as lawmakers leave Washington for their August break. . .

The move, which requires the agreement of every senator, means the Senate will be in session every three business days throughout the August recess. . .

Senators were scheduled to be in town through next week, but staffers and senators predicted they would wrap up a few remaining agenda items and leave Washington early.

Note that EVERY senator had to agree to block any Trump recess appointments. Also remember that Trump had told the Senate not to leave town until they came up with another health-care plan. Yet another poke in Trump’s eye by the Senate.

USA Today says that Trump’s woes with the Senate were made worse by Trump’s bullying tactics.

President Trump’s strong-arm negotiating tactics may have worked against business opponents but they are backfiring with Republican senators, who resent being bullied to vote with the president on health care and other issues and have the political clout to resist him, experts say.

“No matter how strong or dominant a personality the president has, he is going to have trouble taking on an American political institution as powerful as the U.S. Senate,” said Grant Reeher, a political science professor and director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University. “Senators have a strong sense of independence and sense of self that says ‘I don’t get pushed around that way.’ And they’re pushing back.”

The hostility toward Trump’s attacks goes right to the top. Trump had told McConnell to get rid of the filibuster, and McConnell recoiled, according to Politico.

A day after Trump urged McConnell to kill the filibuster. . .McConnell had this to say to the new president: That’s not your call. “That’s not a presidential decision. That’s a Senate decision,” McConnell told Politico.

The hostility toward Trump has increased to the point where some Senators are now talking about censuring Trump for various actions, including lying about Russia.

While Republicans hold the reins in both chambers of Congress, impeachment is an unlikely response to any of these growing concerns. But there is another option for members of Congress frustrated with the president but not prepared to impeach him: censure.

Censure lacks the legal bite of impeachment, such as disbarment from public office, but comes with its own political barbs. Although it hasn’t received much attention so far, this may be the likeliest scenario for Trump because it avoids the constitutional pitfalls of indictment and requires less political support from congressional Republicans than impeachment. . .

One other feature of censure is worth noting: unlike the impeachment process, the Senate could issue its own censure without waiting for the House to act first or in agreement.

And that’s Trump’s problem. The Senate has a lot of power, certainly more than the House. And FiveThirtyEight points out why the Senate is more hostile than the House.

1. Duh, re-election. . . The theory here is that being anti-Trump would hurt a Republican senator or representative with the GOP base and could lead to either a primary challenge or depressed support in the general election. Since all House members are facing re-election, more are shying away from open criticism of the president.

2. Senators may dislike Trump more than House members do. . . By last October, near the end of the presidential campaign, 14 of the 54 then-sitting GOP senators (26 percent) were refusing to back Trump, according to Vox. In contrast, just 29 of the 247 House members the GOP had at that time refused to back Trump (12 percent).

3. The Senate provides more high-profile opportunities for criticism. . . Senators are more well-known, so journalists may choose to ask them their views on issues and quote them more than rank-and-file House members.

4. The House may be more aligned with Trump on issues. . .The House Freedom Caucus. . .is closer to Trump than other parts of Congress are. . .The House also seems to have something of a Fox News-wing.

5. Paul Ryan may support Trump more than Mitch McConnell. . . House Speaker Paul Ryan, perhaps compensating for his disavowal of Trump during the campaign, regularly defends the president now. . . McConnell is setting a tone that senators should challenge Trump when they see fit and Ryan is not.

FiveThirtyEight leaves out the most important difference. Thanks to Gerrymandering, House districts are drawn to give incumbents the most radical partisans in their district, so the representative must voice that radicalism. By contrast, senators have to please voters across the entire state, which are, of course, more moderate.

9 COMMENTS

  1. This article seems to state that Congress is putting themselves in the position of President by making laws and regulations to keep the President from doing his job based on the previous laws of the country. I would vote against any congressman that voted to control the rights of the President in any way unless he were trying to overthrow the rightful government, which Trump is not.

    • Naw. We’re supposed to have three CO-EQUAL branches of government. Congress has abrogated its responsibility for decades, allowing executive orders, signing statements, and other tricks to circumvent its rightful authority. They’ve even meekly “deputized” the president to do their job, in some cases. It’s time that McConnell and Ryan are seen on the same footing as Trump. The fact that we see them as below, and even subservient to him, shows how badly we’ve fallen. The fact that any president orders Congress to do anything should cause the Founding Fathers to clutch their way to the surface, and take up arms.

      Trump went to Washington to destroy the government. He purposely appointed people who have specifically pledged to destroy the department they were named to: Betsy DeVos in Education, Scott Pruitt in EPA, and Rick Perry in “oops,” to name just a few.

      The ironic thing is that as Trump’s attempts to decimate the Executive Branch Congress may begin to reassert the powers that are their responsibility–not limited to war powers.

      • Keyword SUPPOSED. At this time they act as individual parts of the government each being more rightful than the other. Therefore fight each other instead of working together for the betterment of the people they represent.

        • That is precisely what the Founders intended. Our whole system was set up to limit power. The presidency has sucked way too much of it into that branch. It’s time that Congress put on its “big boy pants.”

          • Big boy pants or do nothing pants? Well, Reid did something. He blocked legislation. Got away with it. Ryan just wants what beat for Ryan.

  2. Trump’s enemy is the American people and our core values and constitution. His only real enemy is himself by standing in opposition to the people and the constitution. He will continue to fail until he embraces American values. Never going to happen.

  3. Donald Trump is the president of the US which makes him responsible for the welfare of 323.1 million people. Not just the few million that remain his devoted base.

    The sad fact is that nearly everyone realizes Trump is a profound liar. Trump lies in his speeches, lies in his tweets, lies when in fact, the truth would be his better option.

    Too many Republicans have become weak, evasive or silent in condemning Trump’s rhetoric. Trump has made a nefarious evil feel so comfortable it is emerging from the shadows. White supremacist, including neo Nazis, many wearing “make America great again” caps, openly marched in Charlottesville.

    Now is the time to put the country ahead of any one party or personal philosophy.

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