As the longest shutdown of the federal government in American history grinds on toward a full month of dysfunction, Politico’s Burgess Everett reports on the central problem in the story of alleged dissent by a few Republican Senators, including Cory Gardner of Colorado, now paying lip service to ending the shutdown without victory for President Donald Trump on his obsessive quest to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
The problem? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has steadfastly blown Gardner off:
The Senate majority leader is standing firm in his resolve to not move a muscle on any government funding bill that would not have the president’s approval. That’s earned him scorn among Democrats given that he endorsed a funding bill that didn’t include the president’s much-sought additional border wall funding of more than $5 billion in December.
But aside from some rank-and-file Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Cory Gardner of Colorado who say Congress should again pass spending bills that don’t provide additional wall funding, McConnell’s allies say he’s facing little pressure to change his stance as the longest shutdown in history continues.
“They’re going to do what they need to do and advocate for what they believe their constituents want,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, [Pols emphasis] who served as McConnell’s deputy for six years. “But I don’t think that should be confused with what Sen. McConnell’s calculus is, which is: not to go through this effort of passing something the president won’t sign and then going through a potential veto override and all the conflict that would cause.”
That’s a frank admission from Sen. John Cornyn that Gardner and other Republican Senators who claim to support an immediate end to the shutdown are doing so for their own political purposes–in Gardner’s case, political survival, being arguably the most vulnerable Republican Senator up for re-election in 2020.
But it doesn’t matter, because Gardner appears to have backtracked almost entirely between then and now:
Yet even the senators who have proposed reopening the government without additional border wall funding don’t fault McConnell. Gardner is up for reelection in 2020 in blue Colorado and has been talking to senators in both parties about ending the shutdown, but he said that McConnell is “trying to find a way forward, just like the rest of us are.” [Pols emphasis]
“Why isn’t there a rebellion on the Democrats’ side?” Gardner said, [Pols emphasis] highlighting the party’s lockstep opposition to giving Trump more than $1.3 billion for fencing.
This is the same Cory Gardner who just after the New Year said he would support the Democratic House’s bills to reopen the government, capitulating to the “lockstep opposition” he’s complaining about today! In truth Gardner started to back away from his new position almost as fast as he staked it out, stockpiling media praise he didn’t deserve–and now instead of placing the blame where it obviously belongs, with his own GOP Senate leadership who refuses to allow a vote on the bills Gardner claims to support, Gardner has reverted to blaming the same Democrats he allied himself with less than two weeks ago.
All told, it’s a classic example of Cory Gardner’s trademark two-faced politics. Of course, knowing this means understanding that Gardner is not going to end the shutdown, in fact if anything his insincere “dissent” is more likely to prolong it. But this long game does give Cory Gardner a chance, paraphrasing Jethro Tull, to skate away on the thin ice of a new day.
And for America’s most vulnerable Senator, that’s all anything is really about now.