Senate Republicans are warning the White House that the 2012 presidential candidate will face one of the most difficult confirmation fights of Donald Trump’s presidency and are making a behind-the-scenes play to get the president to back off, two GOP senators said.
.. Republican senators have generally waved through Trump’s nominees over the past two years, but they are reluctant to do the same for the Fed, amid fears that Trump’s push to install interest-rate slashing allies will politicize the central bank.
The resistance comes as Senate Republicans also actively are pressing Trump to halt his purge at the Department of Homeland Security and reconsider economy-damaging auto tariffs.
Some GOP senators said that Cain’s difficult path might have eased Stephen Moore’s confirmation to the Fed, despite Moore’s own problems with unpaid taxes and his partisan reputation. After all, Republicans might be hard-pressed to revolt against both of Trump’s nominees.
..“I think the chances of getting both through, I would say at the moment, are pretty steep,” Thune said.
Neither Moore nor Cain has been officially nominated. A senator familiar with the nominations said Trump is “full speed” ahead on Cain even though FBI background checks and documentations of sexual harassment allegations have not yet been submitted to the Senate. A person familiar with the process expects the background check to raise more questions about Cain.
With that in mind, Republicans are trying to dissuade Trump from a brutal political fight that would highlight intraparty divisions; the nominations need a simple majority and no Democratic support can be counted on.
Trump’s intent to nominate Cain marks one of his most brazen moves yet to take on his own party, coming on the heels of his emergency declaration at the southern border that went against the wishes of GOP senators who stood by Trump during the shutdown.
And once again, Republicans are sending the president clear signals: Pick someone with less partisan credentials and less baggage. While Cain did serve on the Kansas City Federal Reserve Board, Senate Republicans say he now largely appears to be a Trump surrogate.
“I don’t think Herman Cain will be on the Federal Reserve Board, no. I’m reviewing [Moore’s] writings and I’ll make a determination when I have done so,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who ran against Cain in the 2012 presidential race and seems confident Cain will either be derailed or not officially nominated.
“I feel that we can’t turn the Federal Reserve into a more partisan entity,” Romney added. “I think that would be the wrong course.”
.. Cain later endorsed Romney in 2012, but one of Romney’s colleagues said the Utah senator “is not fond of Herman.” Cain also challenged Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) in a 2004 Senate primary race.
But more troubling to some in the Senate is that Cain founded pro-Trump group America Fighting Back.
“Do you seriously want a guy on the Fed that has a whole organization, the only purpose of it is to encourage Republicans to do whatever the president says he’d like you to do?” said one Republican senator distressed about the nomination. The senator said confirming Cain would be “hard,” but his nomination alone “might confirm Stephen Moore.”
Cain’s group recently said in a fundraising request that Republicans who opposed the president’s emergency declaration were “traitors.”
The rosier reception for Moore comes in part because Republicans will be reluctant to reject two of Trump’s Fed nominees, given their desire to protect their already shaky relationship with the president. In addition to their opposition to Trump’s tariff threats and his shake-up at the Homeland Security Department, Republicans also recently forced him to back off his demand for a new GOP health care bill.
Yet it’s not clear at all that the president is keeping in mind the fact that he will need to get 50 of 53 Senate Republicans to vote for these nominees. Asked about Cain, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said only: “I was not aware it was that serious of a consideration.”
Stressing that he was not singling out Cain, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a whip for six years, said the White House must simply do more to consult with Capitol Hill.
“It’s really important for the White House to work with us as they’re contemplating nominees to make sure that both the White House has reasonable expectations about confirmations. We can also communicate with the White House about what the challenges of a confirmation may be,” Cornyn said.
.. It’s not clear the president quite realizes the scale of the potential task ahead to confirm his two Fed picks. A half-dozen GOP senators are bracing for competitive races next year and do not want to be seen as Trump’s lackeys. Voting against those nominees could help them assert their independence in their voting record.
Then there are senators like Romney and Isakson who have shown little fear in confronting Trump of late. Romney voted against Trump’s national emergency declaration, while Isakson stepped into a void of Senate Republicans to defend the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) from Trump’s attacks.
They won’t be alone in scrutinizing these nominees.
“Mr. Cain did serve on the regional Federal Reserves, so that is good experience. His wanting to return to the gold standard is something that is very controversial. And I don’t know the details at this point about the sexual harassment allegations against him,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Stephen Moore appears to have a host of financial and other issues that are going to need to be explored, as well as the fact that he is a very unconventional choice.”
Think of all the misinformation the Senate could identify and rebuke. It could make clear:
- There is no crisis at the southern border;
- No new steel mills are being built in the United States;
- Tariffs are paid by consumers, and the trade debt is not an IOU to a trading partner;
- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was aware of and ultimately responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi;
- Domestic terrorism has been responsible in recent years for more U.S. deaths than any outside terrorist threat;
- Ninety percent of drug smuggling comes through ports of entry;
- NATO partners don’t “owe” the United States money;
- We do not have the “worst” (i.e. most lenient) immigration laws in the world, nor are we the only country to recognize birthright citizenship; and
- Climate change is real and poses an economic, social and geopolitical threat to the United States and our allies.
A question running alongside Donald Trump’s political career is whether he will ever pay a price for his verbal insults.
It was widely thought Mr. Trump might have damaged himself fatally when in mid-2015 he said of John McCain’s time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Even now, Mr. Trump’s verbal smackdowns come so fast and furious that it’s hard to keep up. As far back as I can remember—about a week or so—objects of Mr. Trump’s ire have included
- the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the
- special counsel who is investigating him, and
- the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
- The attacks on “fake news” roll in and out like the weather.
Mr. Trump did the news conference primarily to offer his analysis of the midterm election results, which the president described as “very close to complete victory.”
.. It eventually became clear that what Mr. Trump meant by close to complete victory was the results in races with candidates for whom he personally campaigned—such as Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Indiana—rather than the election outcome for Republicans more generally.
.. “And Barbara Comstock was another one. I mean, I think she could have won that race, but she didn’t want to have any embrace. For that, I don’t blame her. But she lost. Substantially lost. Peter Roskam didn’t want the embrace. Erik Paulsen didn’t want the embrace.”
This is unprecedented. Politics ain’t beanbag, but no president has ever ridiculed the losing members of his own party. No one in politics mocks a defeated election opponent.
.. This moment could cost Mr. Trump in the next two years. The Republicans Mr. Trump hung out to dry in that news conference have friends in Congress and across Washington, and it’s not likely they are going to forget this.
.. Every U.S. presidency at some point comes under intense political pressure. Some break, like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. But until then, all could count for their survival on the political and personal loyalty of members of their party or the people who worked for them.
Who with political power that matters will Donald Trump call on when his darkest hour arrives? Many will lift a finger, but how high?
Mr. Trump has proven his resiliency. But that news conference was an odd moment, kicking fallen Republicans while associating himself with the tender mercies of Nancy Pelosi. Washington, he may find, can quickly become a lonely place.
The first is whether Trump can even pick an acting AG. As you may recall from David Shulkin’s exit as veterans affairs secretary, there is an open question as to whether the Federal Vacancies Reform Act allows a president to temporarily replace a Cabinet official he has fired — as opposed to one who has resigned. If Sessions forces Trump to fire him, there could be a legal battle over Trump’s authority to pick a temporary replacement who would outrank Rosenstein. Otherwise, Rosenstein would effectively take over. So there’s no guarantee of success for Trump there.
If Trump was able to pick a temporary replacement, it couldn’t be just anybody; it would have to be someone who has already been confirmed by the Senate or (less likely) a Justice Department employee with a high enough rank. The former would seem to afford more of a chance of inserting a loyalist.
.. “Whomever Trump appoints as a so-called acting AG in the short term will probably have greater practical significance than whom he nominates for Senate confirmation,” Lederman said.
That’s in part because it would be the person who could take over immediately, and in part because it would be someone who wouldn’t be subject to political maneuvering. The full-time replacement, after all, needs to be confirmed.
.. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), for instance, has said, “I find it really difficult to envision any circumstance where I would vote to confirm a successor to Jeff Sessions if he is fired because he is executing his job rather than choosing to act like a partisan hack.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she doesn’t think a new AG will even be confirmed if Trump fires Sessions.
.. Another interesting subplot is whether the new attorney general or acting attorney general might also insert themselves in the Cohen probe, in which the former Trump attorney has just implicated the president in campaign-finance violations over hush-money payments. But SDNY has historically been very independent of the main Justice Department, and that would lead an internal clash, according to experts.
.. Ultimately, as with so many other things, this boils down to how much Republicans are willing to put up with from Trump — and whether they feel they can stop him. Also, as with so many other things, it will probably take only one or two of them to actually stand in his way.
.. Most times, they haven’t been prepared to actually fight him, or they’ve fought him only partially, succumbing to the politics of the day in the GOP. This situation could be different for a whole host of reasons, but as Graham demonstrated, we also haven’t seen anyone draw a true line in the sand and stick to it yet.