Opinion writer

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) exploded with frustration on the Senate floor Tuesday after Senate GOP leaders refused to allow a vote on his amendment that would claw back tariff authority from the president:

Corker was exasperated not to get a vote on his amendment because “by gosh, the president might not like it.” He told his fellow Republicans, “Gosh, we might poke the bear!’ That is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways. ‘We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment.” And in a rare move, he cited specifically the senator from Texas, John Cornyn. “I heard the senator from Texas, the senior senator from Texas, saying the other day, well, gosh, we might upset the president. We might upset the president of the United States before the midterms.” Ouch.

Corker is right that the GOP Senate has become “a body where, well, we’ll do what we can do, but my gosh, if the president gets upset with us, then we might not be in the majority, and so let’s don’t do anything that might upset the president.” He’s right, but he should go further. Republicans cannot:

Reject a budget-busting tax bill, because it might upset the president;

Vote on Sen. Susan Collin’s bills to keep Obamacare premium costs from skyrocketing, because it might upset the president;

Pass a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Republicans insist they are for, because it might upset the president;

Denounce fawning over the planet’s worst despot in exchange for empty promises, because it might upset the president;

End the barbaric child-separation policy, because it might upset the president; or

Defend the protection for preexisting conditions, because it might upset the president.

Since they consistently defer to President Trump, why exactly do we need them? They have become enablers of policies they used to excoriate and mute on principles they’ve defended their entire careers. They don’t mind — or at least they won’t say if they mind — that the United States is wrecking the Group of Seven, inviting the Russian bear into the henhouse, fawning over a brutal tyrant, promising to cancel military exercises with South Korea, talking about bugging out of South Korea because it is too expensive, giving Pyongyang a pass on human rights or destroying the post-World War II international trading system. With very few exceptions, they cannot bear to criticize Trump for smearing the FBI and the Justice Department with false conspiracy theories, asserting the right to pardon himself and to be immune from prosecution for obstruction of justice, attacking the legitimacy of the courts, telling the Justice Department to go after political enemies, telling former FBI director James B. Comey to lay off his fired national security adviser Michael Flynn or directing the Justice Department to release details of an investigation (including a secret source) to his cronies in Congress.

In sum, Corker’s rant is fair and necessary, but this problem has been going on far too long in far too many arenas. Just as #NeverTrumpers predicted, the GOP has lost its bearings and become docile poodles in the Trump parade. In doing so, Republicans have destroyed their own reputations and done great damage to our democracy and national security. If Democrats don’t hold them to account, they won’t earn majorities or the moral legitimacy to govern. They better get cracking.