118th Session of Congress: Senate Republicans Struggle with the Uniparty
As the 118th Session of Congress opened its first day of legislative business, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) wasted little time to deliver his rant against House Republicans as ‘trapped in a cycle of extremism,’ paralyzed by division and captured by extreme fringe elements of MAGA while at the same time lauding that ‘bipartisan ship is the key to last year’s success.’
Ever mindful of the RINOs who frequently vote with the Democrats, it is in Schumer’s best interest to create a climate of scare tactics and distortions to keep Senate Republicans in their place and from associating too closely with the success of the now famed Twenty America First rebels in the House. The Republican House caucus has since shifted into a more powerful bloc of legislators with a new credible Speaker who has taken the reins of leadership without a stumble or timidity into a more meaningful direction.
At precisely the moment that Schumer was on a roll spreading his own divisive rhetoric against Republican ‘chaos’, the House was voting as one political body in a series of administrative Resolutions 425 – 0 in a two day display of House unity pulling in the same direction in the interests of improving its own legislative procedures.
As a caucus once obligated to follow its Leader, the dozen or so Senators who opposed the Omnibus Bill yet let it slip through to enactment recognize their comparable experience with a leader whose authority is totally lacking. A feeble veteran of caucus leadership since 2007 who is no longer up to the job; Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky) is unable or unwilling to offer a real legislative agenda to address meaningful structural changes necessary to address the debt ceiling emergency. It is outside the realm of possibility that McConnell would ever seriously push back on the domineering Democrats on any issue.
With an F 44% Liberty Score, how does McConnell, who often votes with the Democrats, retain his position as ‘leader’ of the Republican caucus? Since any Minority or Majority Leader’s role is to rally caucus Members to take positions and vote to benefit their common goal, their common constituent base and their political affiliation as well as what is best for the American people. Are we to presume that McConnell would prefer that his caucus mindlessly follow him into the Democratic camp? What if Schumer, who has a lifetime 97.4% Progressive rating, voted with the Republicans as often as McConnell votes with the Democrats? How long would the Democratic caucus allow Schumer to remain Majority Leader?
There are serious cracks of dissension within the Republican caucus with Members no longer willing to follow McConnell or allow him to dictate the political agenda. A recent vote clearly identified those Republicans who prefer McConnell’s direction in approving Biden’s nominee Brendan Owens as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment on a vote of 60 – 35.
Twenty years with the US Green Building Council and a LEED Fellow, Owens supported technical development of LEED Green Building Rating System creating building standards and codes for green buildings, net zero energy and grid interactive buildings. A consultant with Black Vest Strategy focusing on policy and technical issues related to health, equity and climate as well as support for companies with shared values of sustainability, gender equality and human rights.
Thirteen Republican Senators crossed the aisle as they frequently do to vote with the Democrats. They were: Senators Shelley Capito (W.Va), Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), John Cornyn (Texas), Lindsay Graham (SC), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), * Jerry Moran (Kan), * Mitt Romney (Utah), * Mike Rounds (SD), Thom Tillis (NC), * Roger Wicker (Miss.), * Todd Young (Ind) and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Of the thirteen, five with * are eligible to seek re-election in 2024. In addition, five Senators (three Republicans and two Democrats) were recorded as Not Voting.
To complicate matters, two Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper (Co.) voted against the Owens appointment in an effort to protest Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s refusal to meet over the move of the U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama as if their two votes would somehow make any difference.
What has not received the attention it deserves is the arrival of five newly elected Republican Senators of the America First persuasion, all of whom voted with the majority of the minority Republican caucus. As reinforcements for the previous anti Omnibus Senators, they are Senators Katie Britt (Ala.), Ted Budd (NC), JD Vance (Ohio), Eric Schmitt (Mo.) and Markwayne Mullin (Okla.) as well as the recently appointed Sen. Pete Ricketts (Neb).
Britt, in casting her first Senate vote, opposed Owen’s nomination questioning the Biden Administration “continuing to bring green new deal priorities into the Department of Defense. We achieve peace through strength, not wokeness. The last thing we need is a DOD appointee from the ESG movement.”
Calculating the votes of those thirteen line crossers, who presumably were all elected with their Republican bona fides firmly identified by their constituents, had voted with the Republican Caucus, the final vote would have been 51 – 47 thereby defeating the Owens nomination. And if the five Not Voting were included, the final vote conceivably could have been 54-49, again defeating the Biden nomination.
In other words, it does not take many repeat line-crossers, aka Rino Republicans, to habitually leave their political party of choice and vote with the Democratic opposition. Especially with a razor thin Senate margin of 51 – 49, the Uniparty can easily out-maneuver the Republican caucus every time and influence the outcome on any issue that favors Democratic policy or the Democratic Administration.
Renee Parsons served on the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and as president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, staff in the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, an environmental lobbyist for Friends of the Earth and a staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC.