The fate of President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE's legislative agenda will be determined in the Senate.
Even though Republicans control the body, their 52-seat majority is thin and can't stand many desertions. Each Republican senator is critically important. It will only take a few of them to stop the Trump train on any given issue.
The Senate's 60-vote majority is always a stumbling block on matters where filibusters can be used. Even on issues where it only takes a simple majority to get things done in the Senate — such as confirming presidential appointments (other than the Supreme Court) and passing reconciliation legislation — getting the needed 51 votes may, in some instances, be difficult.
With this in mind, it’s worth watching nine Republican senators who, for one reason or another, could play a big role — including that of adversary — on key parts of the new White House agenda.
The most prominent GOP senator who spells trouble for Trump is John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVoting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities Sinema, Manchin curb Biden's agenda A call to regular order: Joe Manchin and the anomaly of the NDAA MORE. The former presidential nominee gets loads of media coverage, especially when he bucks his own party. A former prisoner of war in Vietnam, he will never forget Trump's criticism of his military service ("I like people who weren't captured.") The irascible Arizona senator is already on the warpath, focused on U.S. relations with Russia and the hacking issue.
Another thorn in Trump's side is Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks MORE of South Carolina. He ran against Trump for the GOP nomination and said some rough things on the campaign trail. Graham and McCain are working in tandem — as they usually do — to box in Trump on national security issues.
The third senator to watch is Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump slams Biden, voices unsubstantiated election fraud claims at first rally of 2022 Overnight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Photos of the Week: Voting rights, former Sen. Harry Reid and snowy owls MORE, also a Trump rival in last year's presidential primaries. The two wrangled throughout the presidential debates, and Trump even made fun of the Kentucky senator's appearance. Paul is already questioning Trump's approach on healthcare reform and its impact on the federal deficit.
Then there is Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsVoting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities More than 30 million families to lose child tax credit checks starting this weekend Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform MORE of Maine, perhaps the least conservative Republican in the Senate. She's remembered for her famous "I will not be voting for Donald Trump" statement after he became her party's presidential nominee.
Next is Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHow a nice-guy South Dakota senator fell into a Trump storm Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster Democrats must close the perception gap MORE, who famously squared off against the New York billionaire during their nasty GOP nomination brawl. The Florida senator, who still harbors higher ambitions, may want to keep a respectable distance from his former nemesis on some issues. His tough questioning of Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson was an early example.
There is also Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCruz to get Nord Stream 2 vote as part of deal on Biden nominees Democrats threaten to play hardball over Cruz's blockade Rubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees MORE of Arizona, an independent-minded reformer and Trump critic; Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a leader in last year's Never Trump movement; Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Clyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' The fates of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE of Alaska, who called on Trump to resign as presidential nominee after the "Access Hollywood" video surfaced; and Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE — a former governor of Tennessee, U.S. Education secretary and presidential candidate — who has tussled with Trump over the years.
Of course, Republicans in Congress who too often oppose their president must be prepared to hear from his supporters back home and maybe even risk a primary challenge in the next election. Flake already has a Trump backer running against him in the 2018 GOP primary.
For sure, Trump will have his hands full fighting off Democrats. They've already set up a war room to oppose him. But, the new president will also have to look over his shoulder at some of his fellow Republicans.
Yes, Trump is captain of the ship — but it will never leave the dock unless most of the Gang of Nine are on board.
Ron Faucheux, Ph.D., is a political analyst, author and pollster. He publishes LunchtimePolitics.com, a daily newsletter on polls. He also runs Clarus Research Group, a nonpartisan survey research firm.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.