Editorials

Trump breaks it, you own it – so speak up, congressional GOP

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock was recorded telling his fellow Republicans moment that they would own whatever becomes of the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock was recorded telling his fellow Republicans moment that they would own whatever becomes of the Affordable Care Act. Associated Press file

At a recent Republican retreat, speaking under what he apparently thought was a cone of silence, Rep. Tom McClintock told his colleagues that whatever happens to the Affordable Care Act, “Republicans will own that, lock, stock and barrel.”

Here’s something we’ve rarely been able to say about the congressman who represents the Sierra while residing in Elk Grove: McClintock is right.

Health insurance is just the start. The potential blame that congressional Republicans could be saddled with under President Donald Trump appears to be metastasizing daily, from the alienation of key trading partners to the draconian travel ban that created international confusion over the weekend.

Ten days into Trump’s tenure, it is clear that even though he has a Republican Congress and needn’t rely on executive orders, as Barack Obama did to overcome partisan obstruction, he prefers governing by edict. And if those edicts appeal only to his base’s most hostile extremes, all the better.

With the clock ticking, Trump’s wrecking ball flying, and the president’s approval ratings cratering after only 10 days in office, Republicans in Congress need to start speaking up.

But as McClintock noted in that retreat, which was secretly taped and shared with the Washington Post, Republicans “will be judged in the election less than two years away” on the outcome.

With that clock ticking, Trump’s wrecking ball flying and the president’s approval ratings cratering, maybe more GOP elected officials should start finding their voices. Now.

As of Monday morning, for example, only 35 of 292 Republicans in Congress had uttered a discouraging word about the disgraceful Trump crackdown on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries that Trump keeps insisting isn’t a “Muslim ban.”

More than 200, stunningly, had nothing to say on the matter. Mass demonstrations in airports across the country. Corporations including General Electric and Google denouncing Trump’s executive order. A slide of more than 200 points in the Dow Jones industrial average, and hundreds of traumatized people, many with green cards.

And yet only about one congressional Republican in 10 had the guts to follow the lead of U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who had no problem calling Trump out on his cruel folly.

In a joint statement, the two veteran senators – who understand that Congress has a constitutional duty to provide a principled check and balance to this erratic, incompetent White House – issued a joint statement. The travel ban, they said, was “not properly vetted,” “went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security” and threatens to “become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

Of the 14 Republicans in California’s congressional delegation, only Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton sounded anything close to an echo, calling the fallout “unacceptable.” Reps. Jeff Denham of Turlock, David Valadao of Hanford and Darrell Issa of Vista complained wanly about governance by executive order.

“The safety and security of our communities always come first,” Denham posted on Facebook, “but the way this recent executive order is playing out has created a lot of uncertainty and unintended consequences.”

“Congress must work with the administration to swiftly re-establish strong and clear screening procedures so that our rich tradition of immigration is not permanently threatened by those who wish us harm,” Issa suggested on his website.

Stanislaus County, in Denham’s district, has more refugees than all but three counties. Issa’s San Diego County leads the state in refugees. But theirs are far from the only districts with a stake in this country’s policies on immigration.

Are any of California’s constituents really served by Trump’s bullying of vulnerable people, or his alienation of key trading partners such as Mexico and China?

McClintock, agile politician that he is, understands how to get elected in his red district. Some of his constituents dislike the Affordable Care Act, but 47,000 of them get health coverage through the Medi-Cal expansion it funds. No politician wants to offend 47,000 potential voters.

But no politician has to own what another politician ends up breaking. Republicans should speak now. Because Trump won’t hold his peace.

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