Yesterday, President Trump visited the Capitol to have lunch with members of the Senate majority in the name of party unity. This, of course, came shortly after the reigniting of his feud with outgoing Republican Senator Bob Corker, during which Corker said, “I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in the way that he does, but he does.”
Shortly after the meeting on the Hill, another GOP Senator, Jeff Flake, announced that he would not be seeking reelection in 2018. In a scathing speech on the Senate floor, Flake referenced Trump’s reckless tweeting when he said, “…as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that we should say or do nothing…is…profoundly misguided.” While it is true that Trump’s contempt for political and diplomatic norms is counterproductive to the functioning of our democracy, Flake and other members of Congress are not innocent in the unraveling of “the norms and values that keep America strong.”
Of the three majority Senators who have announced their impending retirement in 2018, only one – John McCain – voted against the most destructive attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and take health insurance away from millions of Americans (Corker voted “no” on an earlier repeal effort). Just last week, Flake, Corker, and McCain all voted in favor of a budget resolution that slashes Medicare and Medicaid and paves the way for huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And just last night, they all voted in favor of repealing a rule that made it harder for big banks to rip off average Americans. These votes are not in line with American norms and values of fairness and equal protection under the law.
Now Congress moves forward to tackle tax reform, giving huge breaks to millionaires and billionaires. Will these three Senators stand by the “norms and values that keep America strong” – unlike their recent votes – or will they hide behind the façade of moral superiority by publicly criticizing the President’s dangerous demeanor while dismantling our values from within?