Keep an eye on this. The US Senate is preparing to hold a vote on actually taking concrete action against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over Kreepy Kushners newest kash kow, Inglorious MBS, over the murder of journalist and permanent US resident Jamal Khashoggi. besides the importance of this country taking a strong moral stand over the state sponsored murder of an innocent journalist, it could end up having longer term implications for domestic US politics.
For once, the devil isn’t in the details, it’s in the concept, and the process itself. The proposed sanctions range from pulling material support for the Saudi’s war in Yemen all the way to pulling air refueling support for the Saudi aircraft that are taking target practice on school buses. Personally, I prefer all-of-the-above, but that’s just me. The problem is not whether or not the GOP dominated House follows the Senate’s expected lead, but in the fact that the vote may end up being largely ceremonial, since I find it unlikely that either McConnell or Ryan could cobble together a veto proof majority, and Trump would be almost certain to veto the bill if it reached his desk.
But here’s the important thing, this is a crack in the Trump foundation. If the Senate passes this bill, it is drawing a line in the sand, there are things Trump can do that are so morally repugnant that even his faithful sycophants in the Senate can’t follow him, lest they all grow beards since they can’t look themselves in the mirror in the morning to shave. If this bill passes, it would also be at least a small drop on the open sore our international allies are nursing, showing that there is at least some measure of moral judgement left in the US political process.
If the measure passes, this won’t be the first time that his congress has chosen to disregard the wishes of Glorious Bleater. Remember that both the GOP dominated House, as well as the Senate, passed increased sanctions on Russia when Trump was trying to ease them, and they passed the measure with a veto proof majority. And drag their heels as they might, congress held Trump’s feet to the fire, forcing the Treasury department to implement the sanctions.
This is where the stand the Senate is taking on the senseless murder of Jamal Khashoggi could impact US domestic politics in the future. The US Senate is supposed to be Donald Trump’s bulwark against impeachment. The introduction of the “naughty bits” from the Friday filings into the political bloodstream has knocked some Republicans for a loop. Suddenly, you’re not just hearing “I don’t pay attention to his tweets” anymore, or “That’s just the President being Trump.” As I wrote a few days ago, you’re starting to hear GOP lawmakers, off the record, begin to anonymously draw some lines in the sand as to what would be a bridge too far in Trump’s crimes. To borrow from an old catholic ditty, “In order to keep your faith intact, make sure it stays unsullied by fact.” And these days, there appears to be some preliminary sullying going on in the GOP caucus.
The face of the GOP majority in the Senate is going to change on January 3rd. True, the GOP picked up two Senate seats last month, but look at the trade off. Trump apologist Orrin Hatch is slinking off into the sunset, to be replaced by Mitt Romney, who sure as hell ain’t no Trump lackey. Rick Scott is replacing Bill Nelson from Florida, but Scott made sure to keep Trump at a long arms length during the campaign, and took issue with Trump over the hurricane Maria response in Puerto Rico. His loyal “Senator Spineless,” Dean Heller is gone from the landscape, and for all of his angry bleating, Jeff Flake was normally in lock step with Trump. Yes, McConnell picked up two new GOP senators, but they may not necessarily be the kind who are sufficiently loyal to Trump to keep him from sleepless nights.
And make no mistake here, while these Republicans are making a moral stand, on a number of fronts, they are also acting from public pressure. The US media did a creditable job of cutting through all of the rhetoric, and displaying the crisis with Saudi Arabia for what it was, the brutal murder of a defenseless journalist by a brazen thug, and Trump botched his response in just about every way you can botch a response. The public expressed outrage over Khashoggi’s murder, and GOP politicians are responding to that pressure. This begs the question, what are the GOP senators going to do when continuing revelations of Trump’s various and sundry criminal enterprises start to come out in greater detail? Cruz’ narrow escape in Texas, as well as the mass migration of GOP suburban House seats, and Tester’s reelection have set the alarm bells ringing in the GOP.
For Trump to survive, he must have a unified, compliant Senate. The pressure is coming. The new, Democratic led House hearings are going to be brutal, and they’re going to be public. When you go from the “concept” of criminality to a nuts-and-bolts tutorial on how it was done, people are going to be pissed. And with the knowledge that the Democratic House can pull the trigger on impeachment at any time, that pressure is going to build on the Senate. If the Senate passes sanctions on Saudi Arabia, keep your eye on Senate confirmation hearings after the new year. This would be the logical next place for GOP senators to start drawing lines in the sand on unqualified Trump nominees, especially if the IG comes down like a hammer on Ryan Zinke, and he has to go. It only takes one Spartacus to lead a rebellion.
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