But Hill Republicans are treating Trump as a third-term candidate as if he were a neophyte candidate and then president. They touch on policy pressures such as his push to end Obamacare and political grievances, vowing to come down “hard” on MSNBC for its unfavorable coverage.
“He’s almost a stream of consciousness,” Sen said. said Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is one of three Senate Republicans holding office after voting to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial — four others have already quit or plan to next year. Cassidy added that it’s “similar to when he tweets every day, and 99 percent of the time it comes to nothing.”
Even so, Trump’s return threatens to spark the same clashes with the Hill GOP that took a serious political toll on the party, perhaps to an even stronger degree than his first term. Some potential flashpoints in his agenda are apparent: Trump could tap nominees that rankle Senate Republican leaders and pursue a polarizing effort to transform the civil service into a less independent force.
Other sources of tension are political. Trump could try to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell if the Kentucky Republican tries to retain the top post under another Trump presidency. House Republicans could see their own leadership shakeup if Trump is elected, as the former president has the power to remove a leader he doesn’t like.
“One thing I know for sure, the leadership is up in the air. I don’t think any of them will survive this term,” said Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), a Trump ally who recently began airing public criticism of Speaker Mike Johnson.
The first four years of Trump’s presidency have been a period of near-constant tension within the GOP establishment, which wanted another candidate in 2016 but gradually got behind him. Those pressures boiled over after the January 6, 2021, violent riots, with many Republicans slamming Trump for inciting the Capitol riots and 17 Republicans opposing him in his second impeachment trial.
Most of those 17 Republicans will be out of Congress by the end of 2024. Remainers are slowly resurrecting a familiar dynamic: Pushing aside concerns that he will lose to Biden again, he downplays his online screeds and less palatable policy proposals.
Sen. who served as GOP whip during the first two years of Trump’s presidency and voted to acquit Trump. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, “I’m under no illusions about what it’s going to look like. “If it’s Biden and Trump, I’ll support Trump. But it’s obviously not without its challenges.
Retiring Senate. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted to convict Trump in two impeachment trials, put it even more bluntly. He recalled a meeting with a health secretary during Trump’s administration to examine the president’s policies: “They had nothing. No proposition, no definitions, no principles.
“He says a lot of things that he doesn’t really mean to do,” Romney said of Trump. “At some point, you stop worrying about what he says and we see what he does.”
Trump has paid little attention to how Republicans on Capitol Hill react to his candidacy or plans for a second term. Only 13 of 49 Republican senators have endorsed Trump, who has racked up 80 House GOP endorsements and the list is expected to grow. In a statement, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said the former president’s “second term will be one for the ages” and attacked Biden.
Even for those who liked Trump’s policies during his tenure, controversy over him is an inevitable part of the deal.
“We have a lot of people on our side who are using Donald Trump for their political benefit,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (RN.D.), “people who are very tired of answering questions about Donald Trump. I don’t think that’s fair to the president. You don’t get a good result without the whole package.”
Another House-Senate GOP split is also likely to emerge if Trump continues to drift toward the nomination. Senate Republicans could regain their majority even if they lose the presidential election next year.
But in the House, the future of Republicans is more deeply intertwined with the swings of the mercurial former president. Many of Trump’s House GOP critics don’t even like the idea of trying to govern with him; In interviews, some simply shook their heads and furrowed their brows in feigned fatigue.
“Shit, yes,” he replied when asked if his colleagues were worried about clashing with Trump. David Joyce (R-Ohio). “Orange Jesus?” he added with a laugh.
Trump’s allies have argued that his second term will be smoother than his first, despite his messy exit from office and subsequent impeachment.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), an influential voice on the House’s right, said Trump “has learned that they exist. [he] Can be trusted and can’t be trusted.”
Miller, a former Trump aide, said the president’s predecessor would look more closely at “allies like me who are on the America First agenda, who are moderately pragmatic” than unpredictable conservatives like the eight (including Picks) who voted. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy should be fired. He dismissed those Trump allies as “freak shows within our party.”
Trump’s team is confident of their broad ties in the House and GOP senators are predicted to rally behind pro-Trump colleagues such as Sens. JD Vance of Ohio and Rick Scott of Florida. In fact, Johnson has supported Trump for president and recently met him at Mar-a-Lago during a political fundraiser at Trump’s club. The two, who have been on good terms since Johnson’s days on the Judiciary Committee at the time of Trump’s first impeachment, chatted amiably and laughed. A photo together.
Like most House Republicans, Johnson has supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Most Senate Republicans, on the other hand, do not — and may be more fixated on McConnell and his allies if Trump reclaims the White House.
A Trump adviser laughed off a question about McConnell’s relationship with Trump, arguing that “Trump hasn’t said much about it.”
McConnell’s office declined to comment for this story. He made no attempt to revive his partnership with Trump, which had frayed after January 6.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) argued that McConnell and Trump could still rebuild their partnership, saying, “Remember pre-election and post-election. Things change after people get elected.
Another Republican close to Trump’s campaign specifically singled out Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R.D.), whom a re-elected Trump has threatened to oppose as a potential target of future ire. (Dune easily won his race in 2022.)
In an interview, Thune acknowledged that Trump is in a strong position, but said he likes hearing from former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign. Thune advised fellow Republicans to “be ready to respond to similar ideas and proposals and statements in the future” as Trump ramps up in the primary.
Other Republicans who served during the first Trump presidency are reluctant to make any predictions about the future — expecting the unexpected.
However, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said he fears Trump’s return to the political spotlight in the GOP, but “everyone is very private about it.”
“I don’t expect him to be any different,” Simpson said, adding, “A lot of colleagues are worried about four years of revenge … We’ll have to wait and see.”