Just about the only thing holding the Republican Party together right now is Amy Coney Barrett.
President Donald Trump’s sinking poll numbers are putting once-safe Senate seats in play and threatening deeper losses in the House. Republicans are unenthusiastic about defending Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic or commenting on his latest string of Twitter rants.
And the Senate GOP is painfully at odds with Trump and top administration officials over their attempts to reach an expensive Covid relief deal with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republican senators savaged the outlines of a White House proposal in a conference call over the weekend, although few Republicans are willing to openly break with Trump just yet.
Fear of Trump remains high in GOP circles, and Republicans know their fate is inexorably tied to the president’s own results. Yet at the moment, it’s not clear Trump has the juice within his party to cut a big spending deal with Democrats.
Meanwhile, there is near unanimous support for Barrett, the type of Supreme Court nominee that Senate Republicans would have confirmed for a President Rubio or a President Cruz. So some in the GOP say they should take the win in front of them and wait until after the election to pass a coronavirus relief package that would split the party — even if it could boost both Trump’s flailing reelection campaign and the GOP battle to keep the Senate.
“The reason [Barrett’s nomination is ] so exciting to Republicans is the uncertainty about what’s going to happen on Nov. 3. Here there is certainty that … we can get this across the finish line,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who introduced Barrett at her confirmation hearing on Monday. “There’s so much uncertainty politically, not only associated with the election, and also what can we agree on” for stimulus.
Braun said the Barrett confirmation would be a cornerstone of Trump’s legacy in his first term. Some of his colleagues are increasingly worried there won’t be a second term, and that Trump’s trajectory threatens their majority as well.
“It’s a trend and it’s going in the wrong direction,” said one Republican senator of Trump’s polling. “I think Republicans have a better chance of keeping the Senate than Donald Trump has of winning the election.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) slammed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during a Saturday conference call to discuss the $1.8 trillion stimulus proposal they floated to Pelosi, saying it would be “the death knell for our majority if Pelosi gets this win,” according to sources on the call.
When asked Monday about her concerns with the White House’s position on the Covid relief talks, Blackburn said she instead backed a $300 billion bill crafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Democrats blocked debate on that measure a month ago, rejecting it as way too little to help the slumping U.S. economy.