Has the fundamental threat to democracy posed by the unhinged Donald Trump and his Russian conspiracy finally pushed the United States Senate into a post-partisan landscape? Hard to believe, but take a look at the latest developments out of the Senate. Just look who’s suddenly invoking whose name for cover, who’s suddenly making a point of standing next to whom, and you begin to see the cross-party power-play alliances that are now emerging.
Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham are the ranking members on the Judiciary Crime and Terrorism subcommittee, but when have you ever so much as heard their names in the same sentence? Yet suddenly Graham and Whitehouse are inseparable. Why? Because they’re both pissed off that Donald Trump’s Department of Justice has been stonewalling them on the answers they’ve been seeking about his phony wiretap claims.
And so this Democrat and Republican have aligned for a power play whose motivations couldn’t be more clear: they know they may end up having to subpoena the evidence they seek. And when you start subpoenaing evidence about the president, you’re going to have to make the case to the American public that these extraordinarily moves are justified.
But these two give each other cover, you see. It’s why they keep mentioning each other’s names, to remind the public that this is bigger than either one o them. No one can accuse Whitehouse of going after Trump for partisan reasons, so long as he keeps pointing out that he’s acting in concert with Graham. And no one can tell Graham to simply bow down to his own party’s leader in the White House, as long as he keeps pointing out that Whitehouse won’t back down even if he does. And they’re not the only such alliance.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley are equally outraged that Trump’s DOJ won’t allow FBI Director James Comey to give them a straight answer on the overall status of the Trump-Russia investigation, so they began calling for it jointly. They finally got their meeting with Comey today. And afterward they appeared together before cameras for the sole purpose of appearing together before the cameras, because the entire briefing was classified and they knew there was nothing they could say about it anyway. But don’t mess with them, you see, because they’re together on this.
The thing about Senators is that, regardless of party, they consider themselves important. And they’re right: there are only a fraction as many Senators as there are members of the House, it’s far harder to get elected to the Senate, and the term lasts three times as long. It’s set up that way for a reason. Senators are supposed to have power by design. And when they have to forcibly invoke the furthest extent of their powers to take on a wholly corrupt and uncooperative Executive Branch, they’re going to rally around each other.
For now, even if it’s only temporary, the U.S. Senate is rapidly morphing into one of those action hero sequels where the traditional rivals have to somberly team up with each other to stop a madman who’s a universally recognized danger. And history tells us that there are very few things more powerful in our government than the Senate during those brief windows when it’s aligned as one unified body. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report