The only joy Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell likely got this week from casting a vote in favor of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill was knowing how much it would fry Donald Trump, who has repeatedly tried and failed to derail the deal he was never able to strike.
Trump, ever the statesmen, responded in kind. In perhaps the truest statement Trump has ever made, he groused, “I have quietly said for years that Mitch McConnell is the most overrated man in politics—now I don’t have to be quiet anymore." Trump chided McConnell for “working so hard to give Biden a victory.”
It wasn't Trump's first attack on the deal. Last weekend, the twice-impeached two-time popular vote loser threatened Republicans who voted for the bill.
"It will be very hard for me to endorse anyone foolish enough to vote in favor of this deal," Trump said in a statement on Saturday, suggesting the bill would be weaponized against Republicans in the next couple election cycles.
One GOP senator who supported the deal, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, was subsequently interrogated by Fox News' Maria Bartiromo. “Are you betraying the Republican base?” Bartiromo asked Cramer on Sunday, kicking off the interview with a bang.
Cramer, a devoted pro-MAGA Trumper, clearly didn't take kindly to the grilling, courtesy of Trump.
“If anybody's gonna go after anybody, they should be going after Joe Biden and his administration,” Cramer later told VICE News. “It would be far better if he and every other Republican would aim their disgust at the people that are causing problems in our country, not those of us trying to solve them.”
Ah, refreshing—GOP frustration over trying to deliver solutions while facing a barrage of uninformed, vituperative attacks from Trump and his toxic cultists. Welcome to the world the rest of us live in, Sen. Cramer.
Though some Senate Republicans facing reelection next year clearly voted against the bipartisan deal in an effort to insulate themselves from criticism on the right, the fact that McConnell along with 18 other Republicans greenlighted the deal was a minor miracle.
Senate Republicans have been making a notable effort to moderate of late in the current political climate. Senate GOP leaders just recently began touting the vaccines, even as their House counterparts rail against science, the scientists, and nearly all mitigation efforts such as masking. In their 2022 quest, House Republicans have gone off the rails to court the party’s radicalized base while Senate Republicans appear to have concluded their fate lies in their ability to appeal to more moderate—mostly reality-based—voters in a half dozen swing states.
So we now have a $1 trillion bipartisan deal that Senate Republicans also clearly hoped would derail a Democrats-only bill, but there it is nonetheless.
Asked about Trump's criticism of the deal on Tuesday, McConnell told the Wall Street Journal, “Infrastructure is popular with both Republicans and Democrats. ... The American people, divided, sent us a 50-50 Senate and a narrowly divided House. I don’t think the message from that was, ‘Do absolutely nothing.’"
Now there's a departure for a guy who just several months ago declared himself "100%" committed to thwarting Biden's presidency. Senate Republicans obviously looked at the popularity of Biden's agenda and decided they couldn't defend entirely sitting it out from a political standpoint.
But Trump isn't just a thorn in McConnell's side—he is 800 pounds of giant, whiney deadweight as far as the Senate GOP caucus is concerned. Their recent efforts to appear more reasonable than their House colleagues has been and will continue to be sabotaged by Trump, who can't stop, won't stop, spewing his 2020 election conspiracy theories and sowing distrust in the electoral system.
In McConnell's interview on Tuesday, the Journal reported that he "declined to talk about Mr. Trump ... saying he is focused on the future."
For months, Senate Republicans have been insisting the midterms will be about the future, only to have Trump get up on stage and launch into some unhinged tirade about "the routers" he says election officials in Maricopa County, Arizona, are hiding.
Last month, Senate Republican campaign chief, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, tried to bend Trump to his will while discussing the GOP's 2022 strategy.
"What the conversation’s going to be about is the Biden agenda and what we’re going to do going forward,” he said.
And when the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a statement celebrating its $51 million fundraising haul for the first half of the year, Trump didn't make the cut.
Instead, Scott dismissed Democrats' "socialist agenda," said Americans were "fed up," and touted the committee's "historic investments in digital fundraising that are already paying dividends."
That's not the way Trump saw it.
“In addition to the RECORD BREAKING money raised over the last 6 months to my political affiliates, I am pleased to see the entire party benefit from ‘Trump,’ Trump said in a statement, crediting himself for all GOP cash hauls.
Senate Republicans desperately want to wall themselves off from the GOP's increasingly ignorant and pervasive radicalization. It's going to be a monumental task, as Trump, House Republicans, and the GOP's gubernatorial "ministers of death" constantly remind Americans how dangerous and indeed lethal Republican Party orthodoxy has become.