As the new year ticked around, Donald Trump was busily attacking Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for failing to deliver him a win in Georgia; and John Thune, the number two Republican in the Senate, over Thune’s acceptance of the Electoral College result.
His language was extreme — but not quite as extreme as that of vocal pro-Trump attorney L. Lin Wood, who has taken to Twitter in recent days to suggest that Kemp, as well as both Georgia Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, ought to be arrested for not having ensured that Georgia voted for Trump on November 3.
These latest fratricidal developments comes after Trump subjected the United States to a guessing game (will there or won’t there be a stimulus bill?) that continued for nearly a week, despite GOP pleas to Trump to sign, until he finally agreed last Sunday to pony up his signature and greenlight relief legislation.
Trump’s capitulation on the relief bill was not, however, the end of Number 45’s swan song. In fact, if anything, these next couple of weeks are likely to be a political soap opera of an epic scale.
Congress is now considering the $2,000 stimulus checks that Trump threw his support behind. But, while that legislation passed easily in the House last week, in the Senate, as of this writing, McConnell is fighting to hold his senators largely in line behind his plan to stymie a quick vote on the measure, and looks set to continue using procedural measures to head off a vote.
Whether he’ll be able keep the issue fully bottled up in the coming days is, however, doubtful. Trump’s sudden embrace of the sort of large-scale stimulus payments long supported by Democrats in Congress has thrown the GOP for a loop. It has also scrambled political calculations in the week leading up to the Georgia senate runoffs.
Already, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham — who spent much of the spring and summer huffing and puffing against enhanced and extended unemployment benefits for those laid off as a consequence of the pandemic — have shifted their positions on stimulus payments to keep themselves in Trump’s good books. So too have both of the Georgia senators who face tough reelection fights in the Georgia runoff elections on January 5. Given that Perdue and Loeffler will need every vote they can get to hang onto their jobs in the runoff election, and given that Trump is far more popular than Mitch McConnell among diehards of the GOP base, Perdue and Loeffler’s Road-to-Damascus conversion to the cause of huge government spending makes strategic sense. It also puts McConnell in the unenviable situation of having to stare down two of his senators just before Georgians vote on whether or not to reelect them, and, by extension, whether or not to leave the GOP in charge of Senate business.
Strange times make strange bedfellows. Last week, in addition to postponing his signature on the relief bill, Trump also vetoed a massive National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). For a Republican president to do such a thing was a seismic shock, and this week the House voted, by a huge margin, to override this veto — though most of the votes came from the Democratic side of the chamber. On New Year’s day, despite Sen. Bernie Sanders hoping to convince a critical mass of his colleagues to withhold support unless McConnell allowed a floor vote on the $2,000 stimulus checks, the Senate also voted to overturn Trump’s veto.
In real time, Trump’s lock on Senate Republicans has begun to dissipate. Perhaps realizing this, Trump has taken to tweeting about the Republicans having a “death wish” in not more enthusiastically supporting his stimulus check proposal. He and his die-hard supporters have also ramped up their demands for Republicans in Congress to interfere in the certification of the Electoral College result on January 6.
To that end, Trumpite Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) went to court to sue Vice President Mike Pence, hoping to force him to explicitly state that he has the power to dismiss electors from states that Trump backers nefariously claim were “stolen” from Donald Trump. On Friday, at the urging of Mike Pence and of the Justice Department, yet another Trump-appointed judge handed down yet another ruling against the efforts to sabotage and overturn the results of the presidential election, ruling that Gohmert didn’t have standing to bring this case.
Yet this latest legal defeat hasn’t quelled the enthusiasm of Trump’s most loyal cult-followers in Congress, who remain willing to fall on their swords, and to undermine the most basic principles of democracy, in their efforts to keep alive the Trump presidency. Dozens of Gohmert’s colleagues are, apparently, planning to object to the certification of pro-Biden Electoral College votes from several key states. And, nearly three weeks after the Electoral College vote, neither Trump nor Pence has acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory or uttered words of congratulation to him or to Kamala Harris.
Meanwhile, McConnell has (at the eleventh hour) finally congratulated the incoming president. And McConnell’s deputy, John Thune, has said that if his fellow GOPers in Congress decide to challenge the Electoral College vote, their efforts will be as doomed as a “shot dog.” His reward? A fusillade of insults from the outgoing president.
None of this is surprising. Trump’s presidency has, from start to finish, been a destructive and dangerous soap opera. How apropos, therefore, that, in these final days and weeks, those soap opera qualities are highlighted once again as Republicans turn on Republicans, and Trump himself turns on just about everyone else.