For 3½ years, Senate Republicans have dutifully parroted President Trump’s pronouncements, refused to block his executive overreach (e.g., letting him unilaterally move funds to pay for the wall) and failed to use the power of the purse to check his reckless and irresponsible conduct. With one exception (Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah), they all voted to acquit Trump during his impeachment trial, setting the stage for the coronavirus debacle and Trump’s turn to authoritarian deployment of force against private citizens.

Their defenders have tried to let them off the hook. What do you expect? They can’t risk a primary challenge! You cannot really revolt against your party’s president. It was all hogwash that holds the Senate’s oath of office as meaningless. We now see, as Trump’s poll ratings crumble, that Republicans are magically discovering their spines, at least occasionally.

On military bases named after Confederates, Republicans seem poised to risk a veto. “On Monday, Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, batted away the prospect of a veto showdown,” the New York Times reports. “ ‘He’s threatened several times to do that, but he also knows that’s the most important bill of the year,’ Mr. Inhofe said in a brief interview.” And in any event, Republicans see no need to bail out the president on this one. Not even Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), among the most compliant Trump lap dogs, is rushing to defend Trump.

At the state level, more Republican governors are ignoring Trump on reopening schools. The Post reports: “Shortly after the president began his campaign, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R), a longtime supporter of the president, broke rank and postponed the start of the school year.” Even when Republican governors in South Carolina and Florida demanded schools reopen, local school districts and state education officials revolted. They would rather listen to freaked-out parents and teachers than pay homage to an increasingly unpopular president. The same phenomenon occurred on masks with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who ordered a statewide mask requirement.

Well, if they can hold the line on these sorts of issues, why are they paralyzed to check even worse executive excesses? You would think Republicans who cut their teeth on “states’ rights” and the 10th Amendment might do something to prevent Trump’s arbitrary deployment of federal troops to states without the consent of governors. (Imagine if President Barack Obama had even suggested such a tactic.)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted his objections:

So where is legislation to block this action? Why are the same lawmakers who backed the lawsuit from red-state attorneys general that portrays the Affordable Care Act as some monstrous act of federal overreach not rising in defense of states’ local police authority? Passivity is a choice. Republicans could check Trump’s tyrannical overreach, but they choose not to.

Sadly, Republicans have been active or passive enablers to this president. They have effectively given up the power of advice and consent, allowing acting secretaries (including acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf) to seize command of executive agencies and departments. The result has been the frightening rise of an authoritarian, unaccountable executive branch and the shriveling of the Senate’s powers.

The good news is that voters can see how closely Republican senators have tied themselves to Trump. His excesses are their excesses; they are every bit as indifferent and inert in the face of a pandemic as the president. If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his colleagues cannot resist Trump’s creation of personal federal shock troops, they should be replaced by lawmakers capable of upholding their oath of office.

As President Trump threatens to unleash the military on American cities roiled in civil unrest, it's clear that he's embracing his inner Nixon. (The Washington Post)

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