Whatever Trump breaks, GOP owns it

Demonstrators protest President Donald Trump’s immigration order on Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport.
Demonstrators protest President Donald Trump’s immigration order on Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport. Los Angeles Times

At a Republican retreat in Philadelphia, 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 said about the congressman who represents much of the Sierra but lives in Elk Grove: McClintock is right.

Health insurance is just the start. The potential blame congressional Republicans could be saddled with under President Trump appears to be metastasizing daily, from alienating key trading partners (potentially lowering prices for almonds, wine and other things grown here while raising the prices for things that aren’t) to the draconian travel ban that created international confusion over the weekend.

Less than two weeks into Trump’s tenure, it’s clear that even though he has a Republican Congress and needn’t rely on executive orders, as Barack Obama did to overcome partisan obstruction, Donald Trump prefers governing by edict. And if those edicts appeal only to his base’s most hostile extremes, so what.

But as McClintock noted, in a retreat that was secretly taped and shared with the Washington Post, Republicans “will be judged in the election less than two years away” on the outcomes. With President Trump’s approval ratings cratering, perhaps more GOP elected officials should start finding their voices.

As of Tuesday morning, some 37 of 292 Congressional Republicans have expressed some level of opposition or disappointment over Trump’s crackdown on immigrants. Despite mass demonstrations in airports, corporate condemnations from General Electric Google and many others, hundreds of traumatized people (many with green cards), the other 255 have had nothing to say.

Only 37 Republicans have had the guts to follow the lead of U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who had no problem calling out Trump on this latest counterproductive and cruel folly.

In a joint statement, McCain and Graham – who understand that Congress has a constitutional duty to provide a principled check and balance to any 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 could “become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

They look like statesmen; others not so much.

After a blizzard of angry Facebook posts, Rep. Jeff Denham slouched into line with Trump, writing, “The safety and security of our communities always come first,” but then added, “the way this recent executive order is playing out has created a lot of uncertainty and unintended consequences.”

This should be in Denham’s sweet spot. His DREAM Act to grant an expedited path to citizenship for those who serve in our military is an excellent idea, but has gone nowhere due to his more strident Republican colleagues. Denham always stands up for his fellow veterans; he should also rise for those who have helped keep them safe. Stanislaus County has more refugees than all but three California counties; they, too, are his constituents.

McClintock knows that even in his deep-red district where many dislike Obamacare, there are still 47,000 covered through the Medi-Cal expansion it funds. Bungling a fix contains real political peril. The same applies to anything Trump breaks – health care, trade, humanitarian imperatives. Those who refuse to stand against Trump’s bad ideas will own the damage.