Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), left, and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) at the Republican Party retreat in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on Feb. 1. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
Opinion writer

Republican congressional leadership in both houses have lost control of frantic members trying desperately to swim away from a burning ship. Consider all of these revolts against party leadership and the White House:

  • A cadre of at least 20 House Republicans have signed the discharge petition to force a vote on the floor to provide a fix for the “dreamers.”
  • In the Senate, three Republicans joined Democrats in voting down the evisceration of net neutrality.
  • Also in the Senate, Republicans joined Democrats in finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump.
  • The Post reports, “Republican lawmakers are pushing back against President Trump’s request for Congress to cut $15 billion from programs including children’s health insurance and Ebola disaster relief, saying the vote could make them vulnerable to Democratic attacks in this year’s midterm campaign. . . .The dispute comes as House leaders face pressure from conservatives to take steps on other fronts that could excite the GOP base but create political problems for lawmakers in tough races as the midterm elections loom.

These efforts are not driven exclusively by moderates. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), for example, was among the three Republicans on net neutrality. These opportunistic undertakings also reveal that mainstream Republicans in both the House and Senate have actual power, if only they would use it more often.

If moderate and mainstream Republicans can stage a revolt on net neutrality or on behalf of dreamers, why could they not pass bipartisan health-care measures or reject some of Trump’s most egregiously unfit nominees? Surely a block of 25 or so House Republicans and three or four moderates in the Senate could have demanded a more balanced and fiscally responsible tax bill. It is true that rebels have to pick and choose their battles, but they’ve been largely avoiding them altogether until now.

A few examples illustrate their missed opportunities:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) promised a vote on health-care fixes; Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who now recognizes that if deficit projections are true “it could well be one of the worst votes I’ve made,” could have made the difference on the tax bill, forcing more tax relief be directed toward the non-rich, creating less debt and making the corporate tax reform actually a reform (broaden the base, remove deductions and lower rates).

If six more Republicans had joined the 54 senators who voted for a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) fix, it would have made it past a filibuster. Sens. Corker, Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) (who once upon a time sponsored the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration plan), as well three Republicans who voted for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 and remain in the Senate (Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Dean Heller of Nevada) could have made the difference.

Likewise, House Republicans could use the very same procedure being deployed for DACA (a discharge petition) to shake loose a bill to protect the special counsel. (A Senate version passed the Judiciary Committee 14 to 7.)

We draw several conclusions from all of this.

First, it is hard but not impossible for less extreme members to counteract the radical rightward shift in the GOP. If they had used their numbers earlier in the Trump presidency a frantic scramble might not now be required to create “Well, I tried!” situations to defend themselves in November.

Second, the White House has little to no sway with GOP members; the latter can’t run on the Trump agenda, so they are trying to craft a different one, albeit too late. The harsh, anti-immigrant and frankly anti-populist (e.g., doing away with net neutrality) positions are not ones that can support an electoral majority.

Third, confidence in the tax cuts to save the GOP is at a low point. If a vote for the tax cuts were enough to secure the majority in both houses, you wouldn’t see the batch of desperate tactics now.

Fourth, there is no reason these topics couldn’t be addressed as a matter of regular order in the six months before the midterm elections. Ah, but the House and Senate don’t seem ready to do anything much at all, except for voting on judicial nominations, between now and November. That in and of itself shows a remarkable lack of concern for the people’s business.

Finally, if Democrats had the majority and could peel off the Republicans now in revolt, we might wind up with some effective bipartisan legislation on everything from infrastructure to DACA. Keep that in mind when voting in November.