Finley: Trump at war again — with GOP

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

There seems to be more Republicans under the GOP bus than on it.

During his campaign, Donald Trump tossed off most of the party establishment, insulting and belittling the Bushes, Romneys and other blue bloods who had for decades provided Republicans with leadership and funding.

Now he’s working his way through the GOP Congress.

For the past several weeks, Trump has been taking direct shots at Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, calling him out in public as weak because he couldn’t push an Obamacare repeal and replace bill through Congress. McConnell responded by suggesting the novice president had “excessive expectations” of how Congress works.

Their feud boiled over on Aug. 9, when the two reportedly got in a telephone cursing match, and it continued this week with the president bullying McConnell to tie raising the debt ceiling to funding his border wall.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has a revolving door to Trump’s dog house, got ensnared in that one as well. Ryan understands getting the votes needed to approve $1.6 billion for starting the wall along the Mexican border will be an enormous challenge, and not worth the risk of a government shutdown for which Republicans are bound to get blamed.

Then last week at his rally in Phoenix, Trump volunteered that he is not all that crazy about Arizona’s Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who has publicly criticized the president’s behavior. Trump offered support to Flake’s primary challengers.

Flake joined the state’s other senator, John McCain, on Trump’s GOP enemies list.

The vaunted dealmaker apparently has a problem with math.

Republicans hold a thin two-vote majority in the Senate. The 48 Democrats are solidly committed to opposing any major initiative Republicans bring to the table. Republicans have not been able to peel off a single one.

The GOP already has trouble keeping aboard its moderate senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and a few others. With the conservative caucus pulling further right and the moderates trying to hold the middle, building consensus has proved impossible.

Without McConnell on his side, Trump won’t be able to find a Senate majority for anything of substance on his agenda. Why would McConnell run through a wall for a president who last week tweeted about him: “Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done.”

How does that endear him to the man who controls his legacy in Congress? Without Mitch McConnell, Trump is toast.

Perhaps Trump is hoping to incite a coup that replaces McConnell. But the Kentuckian is a wily operator, much more experienced at manipulating the levers in Washington than is the president.

Even if he managed to topple McConnell, the divide it would create among Republican senators would effectively make Republicans a minority party.

Unless Trump can start winning friends and influencing lawmakers of his own party, the historic opportunity the 2016 election provided Republicans will be squandered. And he seems to care less about that than pressing his many vendettas.

Nolan Finley’s book, “Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice,” is available from Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN