You would think that the Republican Party being in control of the entire federal government would mean conservative infighting might cool off a bit. You would be wrong.
A new Washington Post report highlights the trouble that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is having keeping his party together both in the Senate and on the campaign trail.
According to the Post, “McConnell had to pull aside rogue senators over their occasional defiance twice in the last two days. He warned one — Bob Corker — in a private conversation that his comments risked hurting the party’s ability to hold its majority in November’s midterm elections.” The reason? Corker praised the Democrat running to replace him, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, and said that he wouldn’t campaign against him.
Also on Thursday, Newsmax reported that Corker told a room full of reporters that McConnell wasn’t prioritizing the confirmation of Donald Trump’s ambassadorial nominees. “Mitch McConnell is going to take up judges—people who are going to be there for a lifetime —over ambassadors who will be there for a short time,” Corker reportedly said.
Corker, a retiring Republican from Tennessee, is not the kind of guy who has historically been a thorn in McConnell’s side. To the contrary, he and McConnell are both card-carrying members of the Republican establishment; last October, McConnell even defended Corker when he was in the middle of a feud with Trump, calling Corker a “valuable member of the Senate GOP.”
McConnell is also facing a revolt from another senior Republican, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, who is pledging to move forward with a vote on a bill making it harder for Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, despite the fact that McConnell has already said he won’t bring it to the floor for a vote. “Obviously the views of the majority leader are important to consider, but they do not govern what happens here in the Judiciary Committee,” Grassley said on Thursday.
The campaign trail doesn’t look much better. The Senate map is extremely favorable to Republicans—Democrats are defending 10 seats in states won by Trump in 2016, while Republicans are only defending one seat that Hillary Clinton won—meaning the Democrats would need a wave of astronomical proportions to take back the Senate. Considering the Democrats’ huge lead on enthusiasm, though, Republicans can’t really afford to have fractured primaries in states that Trump won by double digits.
But that’s exactly what’s happening. Open primaries in places like Indiana and Montana are becoming all-out wars. And as the Post notes, McConnell’s allies have already gotten involved in a pair of primaries: In West Virginia, where ghoulish coal baron Don Blankenship is running neck and neck with the state’s attorney general, and in Mississippi, against longtime McConnell foe Chris McDaniel, to try to stop Roy Moore-esque insurgent candidates from handing a Senate majority to Chuck Schumer.
This is the result of McConnell and the Republican establishment indulging the far right for such a long time: conservatives are at the apex of their power in America, and all of them are extremely fucking pissed off about it. And who knows? As we get closer to what’s shaping up to be a very bad election for Republicans, McConnell might find himself starting to think that his counterpart in the House had the right idea.