(The Hill) – Republican senators are expressing shock and disbelief that former President Donald Trump’s Conservative allies in the House have threatened to strip colleagues who voted for the 1 infrastructure bill Trillion dollars from their commission missions.
The incredulous reactions of Republican senators to a motion in the House to expel Representative John Katko (NY) from his post as a prominent Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee because of his vote for the proposed Infrastructure law reveal the gulf that is opening between the Senate and the House GOP conferences.
While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Created a sort of bulwark against Trump’s complete takeover of the Republican Party, Parliamentary Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Did public displays of loyalty to the former president and did little to curb the most exuberant and provocative pro-Trump conservatives in his conference.
The dramatically different attitudes among Republicans in the Senate and House were laid bare this week when Trump allies in the lower house lobbied to punish the 13 GOP colleagues who voted for infrastructure legislation by threatening their missions in committee.
Calls for retaliation have come from a small number of Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus and lawmakers are unlikely to be kicked out of committees, but the fact that there is even serious discussion about it is causing burns. stomach.
Senate Republicans warn that taking such drastic action against other Republicans over good faith political disagreement would be foolish and dangerous to the long-term health of the party.
“This is absolutely crazy,” R-Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said of discussions in the House of stripping Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill for their committee seats.
“The infrastructure bill was bipartisan. It was voted on by Mitch McConnell, ”he said, saying it will now be more difficult for Democratic leaders to persuade centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., to vote for a bigger one. bill on climate and social spending, because the funding of popular priorities for physical infrastructure have been moved separately.
“The Republicans were smart to back him up,” insisted Romney, who was one of 19 Senate Republicans who voted for infrastructure legislation.
Sen. Richard Shelby (Alabama), the most senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, called the threat of retaliation against House Republicans “draconian.”
Shelby, who has served in Congress since 1979, opposed the infrastructure bill, joining most of his GOP colleagues to vote against the legislation in August.
But he said he had never heard of stripping a lawmaker of a committee duty because of the way he or she voted on a particular bill.
Another Senate Republican who voted for the infrastructure bill called discussions about punishing colleagues in the House who voted for the bill “ridiculous”.
“This is utter, utterly ridiculous, and McCarthy should hush it up,” the lawmaker said. “They don’t have caucus discipline.”
McCarthy returned a motion from Rep. Dan Bishop, RN.
The steering committee may return the motion to the Republican Conference of the House of 213 Members for a vote or ignore it.
Katko told The Hill on Wednesday afternoon that he didn’t know what would happen with the motion.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, RS.D., who also voted against the infrastructure bill, warned that retaliation against fellow Republicans who vote for things they believe to be in the best interest of their constituents is a stupid decision.
“It’s just not a smart thing to do,” he said. “Retaliatory actions like this, I think, are counterproductive in the long run.
“We have this situation here every now and then where someone votes for something and it’s disappointing for us but the most important vote is always the next vote, not the last vote,” he added.
Republican Senate leaders suffered a huge disappointment in 2017 when moderate Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Susan Collins, R-Maine and John McCain, R-Arizona, voted with Democrats to reject legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was a Republican priority.
But there was no question of punishing these lawmakers as a result of this vote.
And the show of respect paid off months later when all three Republicans voted to narrowly pass Trump’s tax cuts and jobs law, 51-49.
Collins also helped give Trump a major victory when she voted to confirm his second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, after a spiteful confirmation process in which she was pressured to vote “no” .
Senate Republicans say infighting between House Republicans raises serious concerns about their future ability to rule if they regain control of the lower house in the 2022 midterm election, which it says political handicappers, is now a likely prospect.
Thune said the 13 Republicans threatened with sanctions “will be with the Republican conference out there on most issues and if you start to isolate and distinguish individual votes it won’t be conducive to a long-term united majority on questions where you really need that. “
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who led the group of centrist Republicans who negotiated the bipartisan infrastructure bill and who attended a signing ceremony at the White House on Monday, said the bill would have been very different if he hadn’t. Republican contribution.
“I hesitate to get involved in House politics, but I think it is a very bad direction if they go in that direction,” he said of the possibility that lawmakers in the GOPs lose committee assignments or be punished in some other way for supporting more funds for roads. , bridges, airports, public transportation and extensive high-speed Internet access.
“People voted for the law because it was in the best interests of their constituents. It’s very popular with us. If you take this approach that you are going to punish people who vote for what is in the best interests of the people they represent, you may end up with real problems, ”he said.
Senate Republicans see the backlash against colleagues who voted for the infrastructure bill to be primarily driven by Trump, who on Wednesday released an insulting statement denigrating Republican lawmakers for giving President Joe Biden a major political achievement.
“Mitch McConnell couldn’t stop the first bill, so 19 senators, including himself, joined him. That’s what he does – if you can’t beat them, join- them, “Trump said in his statement.
But McConnell says he has no regrets supporting the legislation, which he called a “godsend” to his home state.
He argued that Republicans improved the bill by withdrawing the Democrats’ proposed tax hikes and leaving the 2017 tax cuts untouched.
“From my Kentucky perspective, it was extremely good for our state. I am proud of my vote, ”he said.
Scott Wong contributed.