That juicy prediction has every pundit asking who else might join these three martyrs. Maybe Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) or some other dark horse? Who could that elusive fourth Republican senator possibly be?
To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question. But I know what the answer should be: All of them.
Every. Single. One.
Every single one of the 53 GOP senators swore an oath to the Constitution. Every single one of them is supposed to be exercising oversight of the executive branch. Every single senator is receiving a taxpayer-funded salary to serve the public and ensure that the president, whatever his party, does the same.
The default assumption should therefore be that they all perform the jobs they were sent to Washington to do. The idea that we expect (or hope) just four Republicans to rise to the occasion — and that the burden is on Democrats to coax these four into doing so — is astonishing.
Truly, it’s the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Perhaps it’s understandable, though. Lately Congress has been shirking many of its most critical, constitutionally enshrined duties.
Legislators have surrendered their power of the purse. They allow Trump to spend tax dollars as he pleases, regardless of congressional appropriations for, say, aid to Ukraine or a border wall.
They have also ceded their obligation to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations,” allowing Trump to slap tariffs on steel, aluminum and (possibly soon) cars, under the guise of “national security.”
They’ve given up on providing “Advice and Consent” on key administration appointments, tolerating an executive branch riddled with “acting” officials in what should be Senate-confirmed posts. They’ve stood idly by as the White House has rewritten large sections of various laws wholesale, frequently contradicting legislative provisions or intent.
And of course long before this president took office, lawmakers of both parties abdicated their responsibility to declare war.
So why has Congress capitulated so readily? Maybe lawmakers are cowards. Or maybe they’re simply too lazy to do the jobs Americans elected them to do.
After all, GOP legislators have declared strangely permissive work rules for themselves, inventing the equivalent of years-long smoke breaks. Apparently every fourth year, for instance, they excuse themselves from holding hearings for Supreme Court nominees, Constitution be damned. (Note: Excuse only applies when a Democrat is president.)
Executive branch oversight is more or less always optional with Republicans in unified control of government. But it, too, is now also explicitly forbidden in the second half of the first term of a presidency.
That sounds awfully specific, I know. But according to Republican lawmakers, this window is much too close to an election; they would much rather punt to voters on any tough decisions about presidential overreach or abuse of power.
Having dumped this responsibility upon their constituents, lawmakers should at least be willing to procure the information voters need to make informed decisions come Election Day. They could, for instance, demand that the Trump administration furnish subpoenaed documents related to the Ukraine aid holdup. Or ask witnesses in “The Room Where It Happened” to testify under oath about what Trump directed them to do.
Alas, for most GOP lawmakers, that also appears to be too much of a hassle. So they again have written themselves a sick note. This one cites the deep psychic injuries they supposedly sustained when a Democratic congressman quoted a news story saying Trump is trying to bully them into submission. A story they tried to disprove by immediately submitting to their bully.
Perhaps GOP lawmakers need a pep talk. They need to be told to get off their butts and to man (or woman) up. Act like the equal branch of government they are. At the very least someone should remind them — all of them, and not just some pitiful, begrudging foursome — to stop shirking.
Republican lawmakers should heed their own advice and remember the dignity of work.