If you think you've noticed an increase in congressional Republicans willing to openly criticize President Trump, political reporters definitely have. "There wasn't a dramatic public break or an exact moment it happened," The Associated Press reports. "But step by step, Senate Republicans are turning their backs on President Donald Trump." The New York Times says the "shotgun marriage" between Trump and congressional Republicans has entered a new, chilly phase, where "congressional fear is low" and "eyes are rolling with greater velocity." At The Washington Post, the headline question is: "Can this marriage be saved? Relationship between Trump, Senate GOP hits new skids."
And in ways big and small, congressional Republicans are more or less openly defying or ignoring Trump now. Trump and his aides have been hectoring Senate Republicans to reconsider legislation to repeal ObamaCare, and GOP senators are saying no and even starting to work with Democrats; the House and Senate passed new sanctions on Russia opposed by Trump with veto-proof majorities; senators are defending former colleague Attorney General Jeff Sessions from Trump's attacks with increasing vigor; and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) just published a book highly critical of Trump and the "Faustian bargain" Republicans made with him.
And then there are the quotes from Republican Party stalwarts. "Ever since we've been here, we've really been following our lead," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). "Almost every bit of this has been 100 percent internal to Congress." "We work for the American people. We don't work for the president," said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a fairly anodyne statement of fact that AP called "surprisingly tough words from a Republican whose state Trump won easily less than a year ago."
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The ramping up of criticism of Trump is mostly in the Senate, where few Republicans have competitive re-election fights next year, but it's not yet clear how it will translate into action. That's partly because the president has a trump card: Trump and his party "remain tightly linked by a force more powerful than politics or personal ties: cash," AP notes in a separate article on Wednesday. "Trump's fundraising prowess is the engine of the Republican National Committee and a lifeline for every Republican planning to rely on the party for financial help during next year's congressional races."
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