Republicans have the biggest policy win on immigration in decades within their grasp, but Donald Trump is calling the shots now, so the deal is all but dead. In what’s been reported as a Senate Republican meeting Wednesday, leader Mitch McConnell told his colleagues he doesn’t “want to do anything to undermine” Trump.
This is the same McConnell who reportedly privately celebrated the fact that “Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us” by impeaching Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. The McConnell who, after voting not to convict Trump on said impeachment charges, publicly declared Trump “practically and morally responsible” for the attack on the Capitol that day in his floor speech announcing that he would not vote to impeach Trump. Trump “seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out,” McConnell said at the time.
“A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name,” McConnell added. “These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him.”
But now McConnell’s apparently declaring his loyalty to Trump, as well, while the Republican civil war fomented by Trump spills over from the House to the Senate. On Wednesday, McConnell reportedly told Republicans they are in a “quandary” over Trump’s opposition to the proposed bill, which would give Republicans big concessions on border policy. He even used Trump’s own words, to show that a big victory is in reach.
“He did a good job of quoting Donald Trump saying in 2018 that we will never get a Democrat to vote for this [border] stuff,” Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told CNN. But that wasn’t enough for MAGA politicians, who “want to kill it and run on the issue,” as one Senate Republican source told The Hill. Another GOP senator said after the meeting, “I think the border portion is dead.”
Senate MAGA members held a press conference Wednesday to attack the possible deal and to declare war on McConnell for even considering cooperating on the bill. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas basically called McConnell a traitor to Republicans. “Chuck Schumer’s enemies in Congress are conservatives in the Senate and are House Republican leadership,” Cruz said. “And sadly, Mitch McConnell’s enemies are conservatives in the Senate and House Republican leadership.” And Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, “The problem is our leader. … Leader McConnell is really the stage manager of this negotiation.”
McConnell isn’t publicly crying uncle, not yet, telling one reporter Thursday that talks are still ongoing, but the writing is definitely on the wall. Trump doesn’t want a border deal, and McConnell doesn’t seem likely to try to defy him, not when it could endanger his own leadership position.