Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.
O.K., brace yourself. We might just be having a moment in politics this week.
No, I’m not talking about Beto O’Rourke, the telegenic former Texas congressman whose newly launched presidential campaign prompted wall-to-wall media coverage today.
I’m talking about what’s been happening in Congress.
A quick catch-up: Today, a dozen Republicans in the Senate voted with Democrats to reject President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall. Their rebuke comes just hours after the House — in an overwhelming, bipartisan, 420-0 vote — backed a resolution urging the Justice Department to publicly release the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. And it comes a day after the Senate voted to end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, an effort seen as a reproach of the president’s defense of the kingdom after the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Practically, this all means very little. The House resolution cannot force the Justice Department to release more of the report. And Mr. Trump has made it clear that he will veto the other two measures — a step his opponents don’t have the numbers to override in the Senate.
But politically, the trifecta of rejections tells us that Mr. Trump’s grip on congressional Republicans may be loosening. The political ground may be ever so slightly shifting — and with it, the control Mr. Trump has over his party.
As we’ve written before, the president remains overwhelmingly popular with his base. There is no groundswell of anti-Trump sentiment in the Republican Party. Two of the most vulnerable Republican senators, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado, stuck with the president. (Mr. Tillis flipped his position after talks with the White House and rumblings of a primary challenge.)
Republican defectors stress that their opposition is not personal but institutional. Spending money and declaring war are foundational powers assigned in the Constitution to Congress. By ceding to the president the right to declare a national emergency, they’d essentially be weakening their own power — and their leverage for the next negotiation with the White House.
“I believe the use of emergency powers in this circumstance violates the Constitution,” said Senator Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas, in a statement written on lined paper and published on Twitter.
But it’s also important to look at these votes in context of this political moment. The White House is under siege from congressional investigations, and the special counsel report is looming. Mr. Trump’s approval ratings hover around 40 percent.
With the 2020 campaign well underway, some Republicans may be calibrating their views for their own re-election races in purple states. Others, like Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, may be imagining a post-Trump political world.
We don’t know exactly how Mr. Trump, a man who deeply values loyalty, will handle this type of rebuke from his own party. It’s awfully hard not to picture him taking it personally.
In the past, Mr. Trump has gleefully taken credit for “retiring” critics like former Senator Jeff Flake and Republican House members who rejected “the embrace” of the White House — losses that cost his party control of the House.
But he may find that there’s some power in numbers: Targeting a pack of a dozen Republicans is harder than picking off a few strays.
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The Soapbox: Beto and women
This is The Soapbox, a forum for you to share your thoughts with us and your fellow On Politics readers.
Earlier this week, we looked at Beto O’Rourke’s unorthodox path to the 2020 primary — the lonely road trips, the Kerouac-like blog posts — and wondered how it would have been perceived if he were a female candidate. Now that he has officially entered the race, we wanted to share some responses that we received this week.
“I totally agree with you on the double standard for male/female candidates,” Judith wrote. “Beto O’Rourke is an egocentric and most unappealing potential candidate — I hope he sinks slowly in the west.”
“Who cares why Beto O’Rourke spent the last several months on the road? Any effect on his family is between him and his family,” wrote Anne. She said her concern was with his policies (or lack thereof): “‘Not Ted Cruz’ and ‘Not Donald Trump’ and ‘but so many Texans like him’ aren’t sufficient reasons for me to make a decision about whether I’d want to trust him with running this country.”
“Unless I completely miss my guess, Beto is a flash in the pan,” Mina wrote. “Had there not been a Donald Trump, a crazy person, following Obama, a well-educated, amazing president, there would be no Beto having the audacity to think he could be president!”
“I don’t begrudge Beto’s unorthodox style of ‘campaigning’ and don’t hold against him being male and running for office in that way,” wrote Karen, who described herself as a veteran political activist. “The one thing which Beto has that no other candidate who is running has is that he is genuine and speaks from his heart (not his head). Most of my friends are politicians or former politicians, and no one is like Beto.”
If you want to share your thoughts, send us an email: email@example.com.
What to read tonight
• A mob boss’s killing on Staten Island last night harked back to the old days of organized crime in New York. Here’s the story of the man who was gunned down: Frank Cali, reputed leader of the Gambino crime family.
• Our tech columnist Kevin Roose takes a look at Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to break up big tech companies. He says the plan is “a bold first stab at reform,” but offers some edits to make it more effective.
TMZ with some breaking 2020 news: Cory *hearts* Rosario.
Also, this insta-classic by the Times photographer Doug Mills is not to be missed.
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