In the wake of Senator Orrin Hatch’s retirement announcement, all eyes are on Mitt Romney, who many expect to stroll severely into the seat. As a searing critic of President Trump since early in the 2016 primary campaign, a potential Senator Romney promises to be a much needed voice of principled (not partisan) opposition. Some aren’t so convinced.
The prospect of Senator Mitt Romney is a big blow to Trump. It’ll be yet another Republican senator who will say mean things about him, while still voting for everything on his agenda
— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) January 2, 2018
This has been a common line against anti-Trump Republicans, and it’s a transparent red herring, for several reasons.
There are policy issues with the president, but most anti-Trump Republicans don’t oppose his policy (to the extent that is even his and not just what he’s parroting from advisers). #NeverTrump is about his character and his lack of ideology, not the bills he promises to sign.
And so far there aren’t many of them. It’s hard to identify a Republican voting record that differs substantially from a Republican president when we’ve only been through the first year of the first term and only a handful of policy bills have even been brought to a vote. #NeverTrump Republicans are still going to support repealing Obamacare, cutting taxes, increasing military spending, strengthening border security, and eliminating regulations. That doesn’t make their opposition toothless.
I’m going to just take my ratio and say yet again “These Republicans say they’re anti-Trump but vote for his bills!” is entirely backwards. He’s tacitly surrendering policy to them, not the other way around.
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) January 2, 2018
Other than The Wall™, Sarlin is exactly right. Trump doesn’t have policy for Republicans to diverge from. They have policy; he has Twitter.
To the extent there are policy differences between President Trump and a potential Senator Romney and other #NeverTrump Republicans, it happens to be that they are mostly non-legislative issues. Many Republicans oppose the Muslim ban, non-confirmation staff choices, and threats against the independence of the Mueller investigation. Members of Congress can’t do a thing about any of those.
Yes, Romney will continue to speak out against Trump when necessary. Yes, Romney will vote for standard GOP policy as a senator – policy that Trump himself couldn’t care less about. That’s okay. One does not undermine the other. Personally, I think he’s a much more natural executive or administrative leader, but I welcome his voice (when it speaks true) in any venue.