President Donald Trump went after retired four star Admiral William McRaven after he criticized Trump for undermining the media. Veuer’s Sam Berman has the full story.
WASHINGTON â€“ President Donald Trump will have as many as two more GOP votes in the Senate next year, but he will also confront wavering Republicans, a loss of centrists and a coterie of Democratic presidential candidates in no mood for compromise.
In other words, the Senate will remain a tough place for Trump to do business.Â
Republicans flipped their fourth Senate seat this week when Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson conceded to Republican Rick Scott after a grueling, 12-day recount. If Republicans win a runoff on Tuesday in Mississippi â€“ the last holdover from the Nov. 6 election â€“ they will have a 53-seat majority, two more than the party has now.
But the extra cushioning may provide little comfort for Trump.Â Â
â€œI’m doubtful that the extra seats are that valuable in a legislative sense,â€ said Sarah Binder, a George Washington University political scientist.
The Senate’s new composition will change the political dynamic beyond just vote counts. Outspoken Republican critics of the president such as Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee will be gone. Mitt Romneyâ€™s election in Utah, on the other hand, elevates a well-known voice who vociferously opposed Trump in 2016.
Hereâ€™s a look at how the landscape may change for the president in the next Senate: Â Â
In a place where votes are often close, two more seats give Republicans more breathing room. That could help Trump get more of his appointeesÂ confirmedÂ â€“ including another Supreme Court justice, if a vacancy occurred. And it could help the GOP block efforts to remove Trump from power, should House Democrats pursue an impeachment.
But based solely on vote tallies,Â the GOP gain of two won’t amount to muchÂ given that 60 votes are still needed for virtually all controversial bills. Trump has pressed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change Senate rules to lower that threshold, but the Kentucky RepublicanÂ has rejected the idea in the past.Â
“My age-old question is whether the president and his team have learned anything at all about the legislative process, especially when it comes to the Senate,” said Jim Manley, who worked for former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “Trump, for one, canâ€™t get over the fact that McConnell’s never going to change the rules of the Senate.”
Most appointments, even high-profile nominees like Justice Brett Kavanaugh, can win confirmation with a simple majority.Â Â Â
On the other hand, two more votes could take the pressure off centrist Republicans such as Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and LisaÂ Murkowski of Alaska, both of whom helped tank the GOP-led repeal of the Affordable Care Act last year, according to Binder.
“Their votes are conceptually less pivotal now that Republicans hold more seats,” she said.Â
That dynamic will be especially important to watch given the 2020 Senate map.Â Â
In the reverse of this year, it is Republicans who will be defending most of the Senate seats up for election in 2020. But unlike the challenge many Democrats faced in seeking re-election in states carried by Trump, only two Republicans will be up in states Trump lost in 2016.
One of those senators, Collins, drew the ire of Democrats who had previously supported her when she voted to confirm Kavanaugh. An onlineÂ campaign to defeat Collins has raised more than $3.7 million even though she does not yet have an opponent.
â€œSusan Collins has to repair her relationship with the Democrats in Maine,â€ said Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker.
Colorado Sen. Cory Garner represents a state recentlyÂ considered winnable by either party but now looks increasingly Democratic. And Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis will have to hold on to states won by both Trump and President Barack Obama.
But because McConnell now has a few more votes to spare, it will be easier to give vulnerable senatorsÂ a pass on a tough vote, said John Hudak, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
â€œIn a Senate with 51Â votes, you donâ€™t have that luxury,â€ Hudak said. â€œIn a Senate with 53 votes, you do.â€
Republicans defeated three of the Democrats who voted with them most often, leaving fewer opportunities to pad their slim majority with help from the other side.
â€œThe Senate is more polarized,â€ said Steve Smith, a political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
Defeated Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North DakotaÂ and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, for example, worked with Republicans this year to ease some of the banking regulations imposed after the 2008 financial crisis. Donnelly and Heitkamp sided with fellow Democrats on votes that split the parties slightly less than two-thirds of the time in the last two years, according to Congressional Quarterly.
But two other line crossersÂ â€“ West Virginiaâ€™s Joe Manchin and Montanaâ€™s Jon Tester â€“ survived. And Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who has voted with his party about 60 percent of the time since winning a special election in 2017, will face the voters in his conservative state again in 2020, giving him an incentive to showcase a moderate record.
While BakerÂ said thereâ€™s always opportunities for bipartisan action in the Senate, such islands of cooperation are rare in todayâ€™s sea of partisanship.
â€œThe American people just have to be satisfied with the fact that there are very, very few areas of legislation in which there is going to be cooperation between Democrats and Republicans,â€ Baker said.
Voters may be ready to tune out elections for a while, but with as many as a dozen Democrats in the Senate already eyeingÂ a presidential run, it will be difficult to separate all but the most routine legislation from the 2020 campaign.Â
From high-profile names such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to lesser known figures like Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, the Senate floor is likely to becomeÂ a proving ground for Democratic opposition to Trump.
The sheer number of Senate Democrats believed to be considering a run for president could wind up having practical implications for the chamber’s schedule, too.
Democrats considering a run for the White House will need to attend fundraisers in California and New York, taking them away from Washington with increasing frequency. As they move closer to primary season, they’ll have to devote considerably more time to early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.Â Â
That could prove to be a headache for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on close votes.Â
“Itâ€™s definitely going to be a situation in which heâ€™s got toÂ herd rabbits orÂ cats â€“ or some other creature that doesn’t want to be herded,” Baker said.Â
Two Republican senators who had publicly criticized Trump â€“ Arizonaâ€™s Flake and Tennesseeâ€™s Corker â€“ retired rather than seek re-election this year. Corkerâ€™s successor, Marsha Blackburn, tied herself closely to Trump, as did the Republicans who defeated Donnelly, Heitkamp and McCaskill.
That could ramp up the already-high Trump loyalty in the GOP caucus.
Floridaâ€™s Scott, who narrowly defeated Nelson, did try to put some distance between himself and Trump in his campaign advertising â€“ despite being one of the first prominentÂ Republican politicians in the nationÂ to embrace Trump’s candidacy in 2016.
â€œWhen I donâ€™t agree with what President Trump does or says, Iâ€™ve said it,â€ Scott said in a Spanish-language ad that aired at low levels. â€œMy only commitment is with you.”
But the incoming senator who may be most likely to cross swords with Trump is Utahâ€™s Romney. During the 2016 presidential race, Romney called Trump â€œa phonyâ€ and â€œa fraudâ€ and said he didnâ€™t have the temperament or character to be president. While Trump endorsed Romneyâ€™s Senate bid, Romney did not run as a TrumpÂ acolyte and represents a state where a lot of Mormon voters are conservative but have been put off by Trumpâ€™s behavior.
â€œThis is a former (GOP presidential) nominee who has a strong political base of his own and could really be a thorn in the side of the president,â€ Hudak said.
Plus, the midterms were the first time that the president really lost and the way Republicans will respond will be interesting, he added. Although Republicans expanded their Senate majority while losing the House, they could’ve had a much better night given how many seats Democrats were defending.
“Even though Democrats came up short,” Hudak said, “it does speak a little to vulnerability that exists in the Trump brand, in that Republican coalition, that McConnell has to be wary of.”