Trump relationship is litmus test for next Senate GOP leader

thunejohn 031224gn01 w

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), the two leading candidates to become the next Senate GOP leader, are pitching their ability to work closely with former President Trump, even though both senators have had significant differences with him in the past.

The vast majority of Senate Republicans have endorsed Trump for president, and many of them want their next Senate leader to have a much closer relationship with Trump than outgoing Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who hasn’t spoken to Trump since December 2020.

Thune and Cornyn are members of McConnell’s leadership team, and both have been targets of Trump’s wrath in recent years.

They are now trying to convince Senate GOP colleagues they would feel comfortable aboard the MAGA bandwagon if Trump is reelected president, according to colleagues who have talked to both men.

“Whoever’s the leader is going to have to be hand-in-hand with the president [and] be totally on board” with Trump’s agenda, said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).

“We can’t have a division like we’ve had in the past,” added Tuberville, who said it was “the right thing” for McConnell to say he was stepping down.

Tuberville said Thune and Cornyn both have talked about their relationship with Trump, but he was “disappointed” each waited so long to endorse Trump because “we all knew he was going to be the representative from our party.”

Thune didn’t endorse Trump until Feb. 25, and Cornyn didn’t back the likely GOP nominee until Jan. 23, after Trump won the New Hampshire Republican primary.

Tuberville said Thune in particular said he recognized “that there can’t be a rocky relationship” with Trump, “or he won’t be leader or John Cornyn won’t be leader.”

Thune, the GOP whip, told The Hill on Wednesday he’s fully prepared to work closely with Trump, despite their past differences.

“If he’s the president and Republican leader, absolutely,” he said. “We’ve got work to do. We’ve got to hit that running.”

He acknowledged the next GOP leader having a good relationship with Trump “is going to be a priority for a lot of our members, including Sen. Tuberville.”

“Most people expect that,” he added.

Thune’s relationship with Trump hit a rough patch after he opposed the effort by Trump’s allies in Congress to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

Trump called for Thune to face a primary challenger in the 2022 election and bashed him as a “Republican in name only” and “Mitch’s boy.”  

Cornyn last month emphasized his willingness to work with Trump when he announced his intention to run for the top leadership job.

“As the Republican Whip, I helped President Trump advance his agenda through the Senate, including passing historic tax reform and remaking our judiciary — including two Supreme Court Justices,” he said in the statement announcing his candidacy.

He too ran afoul of Trump in 2022 when he negotiated a bipartisan bill to address gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Trump fumed the deal crafted by “with the help of Mitch McConnell, RINO Senator John Cornyn of Texas” would “go down in history as the first step in the movement to TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY.”

Cornyn served as GOP whip during Trump’s first two years in the White House before stepping down due to term limits. Thune held the whip job during Trump’s second two years in office.

The race to replace McConnell has heated up in recent weeks. Republican senators held a special conference meeting Wednesday to discuss coming up with a mission statement to guide a possible future Senate GOP majority.

Senate conservatives are demanding term limits for future leaders and promises they will have more opportunity to offer amendments to bills on the floor.

“As a group of Republican senators, what do we want to accomplish?” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who is “seriously considering” joining the race to become the next Senate GOP leader.

Scott is one of a group of GOP senators who say it’s essential for the next leader to be closely aligned with Trump.

“He’s going to be the president,” Scott said of Trump. “And so it’s important that whoever the Republican leader [is] has a good relationship with the president.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who has spoken to both Thune and Cornyn, said each talked about working with Trump next year if he returns to the White House.

“They’ve talked about that a little bit. Cornyn more, but we’ll see. Proof’s in the pudding on that,” he said.

Hawley and many GOP senators say they grew tired of the drama between Trump and McConnell, something that reached a crescendo when McConnell accused Trump on the Senate floor of being “practically and morally responsible” for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

“We need a lot less drama’s out of the leader’s office,” said Hawley, one of McConnell’s most vocal critics in the GOP conference.

“I would be content with a less dramatic, high-profile” leader, he said. “Somebody who just wants to legislate, get the job done. Someone who wants to listen to members.”

Hawley said former “President Trump is the nominee” and has a good chance of getting elected.

“The next leader’s going to need to have a good relationship with him,” he said. “They got to be able to work together.”

Some Republican senators, however, say their next leader shouldn’t be so cozy with Trump as to lose sight of the Senate’s interests and priorities.

“Clearly, you have to work with whoever’s president,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who says he won’t vote for Trump.

“The Senate is a separate institution. They talk about the balance of power that exists in our Constitution,” he said. “That will be maintained.

“Whether it’s most extreme MAGA member of our caucus or the opposite of that, they’re all going to work with whoever’s president,” he added.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top