Sen. Bob Corker has pointed to the nakedness of the emperor and accused his own party of cowering in equal nakedness.
"My gosh, if the President gets upset with us we might not be in the majority," he said referring to sentiments he often hears from colleagues. "We might poke the bear!"
The rant was part of Corker's reaction when he unsuccessfully tried to get a vote on his tariffs amendment as part of an ongoing debate over the Senate's defense bill.
Corker, seeing the great potential for negative impacts on the U.S. and Tennessee economy from Trump-induced trade wars, has worked for the last two weeks to try to get a vote on an amendment that would claw back the president's authority — any president's authority — to unilaterally impose, without Congressional input, tariffs on the grounds of national security.
The legislation, which Corker wanted to make retroactive over the past two years, could squash the President's recent steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies like Canada, Mexico, Germany and France.
Our Constitution gives Congress that power. But decades ago Congress passed legislation delegating that power to the president — in cases involving national security. When Trump invoked steel and aluminum tariffs against Canada, Mexico and other allies, he used a waiver of "national security." Corker says that was an abuse of presidential power, since there is clearly no threat of national security involved.
Lots of members of the GOP agreed, some even publicly. But after Trump asked Corker — the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is retiring at the end of his term this year — to drop his legislation, Corker said no. Then the squeeze began.
GOP leaders first expressed worry over the midterms, then over the President's "negotiating" position. Clearly what they really fear is the president's trigger Twitter fingers.
"Ninety-five percent of the people on this side of the aisle [Republicans] support, intellectually, this amendment," Corker fumed on the Senate floor. "I would bet that. I would bet higher than 95 percent, and a lot of them would vote for it — if it came to a vote. But, no, no, no. Gosh, we — 'we might poke the bear,' is the language I've been hearing in the hallways. We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment. So we're going to do everything we can to block it."
Corker ranted on, slapping his hand down on a desk: "To block it! If people don't like it, they can vote up or down. People can vote up or down. But, no, the United States Senate right now, on June the 12th is becoming a body where, well, we'll do what we can do, but, my gosh, if the president gets upset with us then we might not be in the majority, and so let's don't do anything that might upset the president."
Corker was still hot the following day.
""We are in a strange place," he told reporters in the Capitol hallway. "I mean, it's almost, it's becoming a cultish thing, isn't it? And it's not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a President that happens to be of, purportedly, of the same party."
"Cult-like." That's a strong word for a conservative senator from the South to level against his party's trance with Donald Trump.
Jennifer Rubin, a center-right Washington Post columnist who is not a Trump fan, said Corker is right — but he should go further.
Republicans also have been unable to reject a budget-busting tax bill, unable to vote on Sen. Susan Collin's and Lamar Alexander's bills to keep Obamacare premium costs from skyrocketing, unable to pass a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, unable to denounce the empty North Korea summit and Trump's "fawning over the planet's worst despot in exchange for empty promises." She also noted they have been unable to end the barbaric immigrant child-separation policy and unable to defend insurance protections for pre-existing conditions. All because "it might upset the president."
Rubin posits: "Since they consistently defer to President Trump, why exactly do we need them? They have become enablers of policies they used to excoriate and mute on principles they've defended their entire careers."
Perhaps worst of all, they let Trump smear our justice system, claim he is above the law, claim he can pardon himself, attack the courts, undermine the special council investigation and thumb his nose at our Constitution while the Trump family enriches itself on our dimes.
Ivanka Trump — "senior adviser" to the president — alone, earned $3.9 million from her stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington. That's the historic U.S. Post Office-turned-hotel that the Trump organization leases from the government (that would make dad the landlord) where plenty of foreign visitors and lobbyists stay. Possible foreign emoluments aside, government rules say no federal official is allowed to profit from federally-owned property.
Heaven forbid that our Senate or House of Representatives "upset the president."