As I wrote this article the count in the next Senate effectively stands at 52-48 in favor of the Republicans. Since Mike Pence will be Vice President and as such able to break 50-50 ties and assuming partisanship it will take 3 GOP Senators to “defect” to defeat a measure that does not qualify for a filibuster. That presents some interesting possible scenarios. Let’s explore.
Arizona’s John McCain and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham have a very close personal, philosophical and voting relationship. They are also not afraid to speak out on issues they feel strongly about. Neither is a cheerleader for President-elect Donald Trump. It is not much of a stretch to envision situations where they will not fall in line with a Trump proposal. That gets us to 50-50 with Mike Pence breaking the tie. What if just one more Republican Senator joins the insurrection? That is more than just a pipe dream.
Texas’ Ted Cruz is a “loose cannon” who has dreams of challenging Trump in 2020. He has yet to publically announce that but does anyone who follows Republican politics doubt it? He is also a political ideologue who will certainly not agree with ever proposal put forth by the incoming administration. Cruz is a great liar and convincing speaker. I can easily see him defying Trump and wrapping his stance in the cloak of his version of conservatism.
Two other possible 2020 GOP hopefuls are Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Florida’s Marco Rubio. Paul has a unique political philosophy which doesn’t dovetail with Trump, the Republican Party or almost anyone else. He could defy Trump on genuine beliefs. Rubio is the most self-centered politician of his generation! He has repeatedly done what he felt was best at the moment for his favorite person in the world – Marco Rubio. He lies almost as naturally as he breathes. I can see any of the three becoming the “third man in”.
One other shared trait with all three is that they have reason not to personally like Trump. I don’t think Paul would defy him just based on that alone. Cruz would be careful on how he framed it. Rubio would only look at how he thought his actions would benefit him.
Now we come to a “coconscious objector”, Maine’s Susan Collins. Collins is the Republican Senator I have the most respect for. She has a record of being willing to cross the aisle if her vote can make a difference on an issue she feels strongly about. She is also a savvy enough politician to not “jump ship” only to land in a sinking boat. That would not help her or her constituents.
Now we come to the part about where Trump could possibly stack the deck a bit more in his favor. He has two viable options; one pays more immediate benefits than the other. He could appoint North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and/or West Virginia’s Joe Manchin to positions in his administration. Both have been rumored and let’s explore the two.
Heitkamp has an immediate benefit. North Dakota has a Republican Governor who would name a Republican as her replacement. Her permanent replacement would almost undoubtedly be a Republican.
In Manchin’s case things are a bit different. West Virginia has a Democratic Governor who would probably name a Democrat as the temporary replacement. Manchin is the most conservative Democrat and would be the easiest (at least philosophically) to get to jump the fence. With Manchin out of the running it is difficult to see a situation where West Virginia elected a Democrat so long-term the seat will flip. Manchin is known not to like Washington very much and there is some question as to whether he will run for reelection to the Senate or for that matter would accept an Executive Branch appointment.
Interestingly both Heitkamp and Manchin are up for reelection in 2018. Both states have laws that let the Governor fill a vacant Senate seat until the next regularly scheduled state-wide election (in this case 2018).
If Manchin chooses to run he is favored to be reelected. Heitkamp is very vulnerable! If Trump and Heitkamp are savvy politicians he will offer her a Cabinet post and she will accept it. We’ll see.
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