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Weak congressional Republicans are not standing up to Trump as they should

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Donald Trump won the election. He’s our President.

But his election does nothing to change the Article I Constitutional Authority of the Congress, nor does it change the responsibility of Republican Members of Congress to honor the promises made to their constituents.

{mosads}Remember those promises? End executive overreach. Stop deficit spending. Lower taxes. Insist on an independent judiciary. Demand Congress be a co-equal branch. Demand our President take a harder line against Vladimir Putin, Iran, and other adversaries to American ideals. Sadly Republicans in Congress have proven to be weaker under a Republican President Trump than they ever were under a Democrat Barack Obama.  


At least under Obama, Republicans in Congress tried — often with intense rhetoric and unrelenting oversight. Under Trump, however, they’ve proven timid and confused, only to at times find their footing and stand not as contrarians, but as apologists for President Trump’s reckless actions and dangerous tweets.

The silence from Capitol Hill is astounding. Where’s the outrage over Trump’s executive order travel ban already stayed by a federal court due to executive overreach (recall the criticism of Obama’s amnesty orders and the cheering at the court’s intervention)? Where’s the outrage at his most predictable pivot to finance a wall on the Mexican border with billions of dollars of deficit spending (recall Republican outrage at Obama’s deficit spending on shovel ready stimulus projects)?

Or how about Trump’s proposal to implement a new 20% tax on consumer goods American families purchase everyday (recall Republicans promises to protect families from Obama’s tax plan so Americans could keep more of their paychecks)? Or Trump’s attacks on an independent judiciary (recall the collective Republican gasps at Obama’s public belittling of Supreme Court justices at the State of the Union)?

Why the silence? For some Members of Congress they know Trump could destroy their political career with a single tweet. But for others, they’re negotiating with themselves over their own quiet anxiety that our famously thin skinned President is even thinner when it comes to his understanding of policy, history, the constitution, and global relations. And to accept that is to recognize the danger we may be heading into under an erratic and inconsistent chief executive.

But most of all, they fear accepting this growing reality because doing so requires one to speak out — it requires one to put patriotism over partisanship. And the truth for any member of Congress in a system built for incumbent protection is the surest way to your own reelection is to say nothing, to do nothing – to stay out of the arena.

Every president until now, those you love and those you loath, has recognized the office of the presidency is bigger than any one person. The office is more precious than the person who occupies it.

Donald Trump is the first president to fail to recognize this, to firmly believe he is in fact bigger than the office, that he is bigger than the presidency.

If Republicans in turn fail to challenge Trump on this, fail to challenge him on his overreach, on his attacks on an independent judiciary, a free media, on legislators, they will have knowingly affirmed his actions, even those most dangerous actions that undermine the very power of the Congress and the rightful authority of the courts.

To be silent is to be a follower, not a leader. And in silently following Trump, Republicans in Congress now own the fate of his presidency just as much as President Trump himself.

David Jolly is a former Republican congressman from Florida.

The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Tags Barack Obama Donald Trump Paul Ryan Republican Party Trump Administration U.S. Congress United States Washington D.C.

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