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August 25, 2019

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Pushback against Trump is good for the GOP as well as the country

It may be too good to be true, but it appears that Republican Party leaders in Congress may finally be growing a spine and trying to exert at least some control over President Donald Trump.

Not only did the Senate block his emergency declaration on the border wall, but reports have emerged from Capitol Hill recently that top GOP figures are working behind the scenes to short-circuit the potential nominations of a number of problematic individuals.

Among them are right-wing extremists Ken Cuccinelli and Kris Kobach as possible heads of the Department of Homeland Security, and Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve. Faced with either angering Trump by rejecting those individuals or running afoul of voters who would rightfully be outraged if the nominations were approved, lawmakers are working to persuade the White House to find other candidates.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to send the message before they send these people up here,” an unnamed Republican senator told Politico.

In addition, Trump’s purge of Homeland Security and his apparent plan to fill the organization with hard-liners has prompted some resistance within the GOP. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he was gathering signatures for a letter warning Trump against firing the department’s general counsel, while Iowa’s Chuck Grassley called the White House to block the removal of two aides.

This is all good to hear.

Trump and his racist henchman — sorry, senior adviser — Stephen Miller need to be stopped before they turn Homeland Security into what amounts to the Department of Anti-Immigration.

Cuccinelli and Kobach are so far to the racist edge that voters in their own states rejected them as gubernatorial candidates. Even one of the senators from Kobach’s home state of Kansas issued a warning not to nominate him.

“Don’t go there,” Sen. Pat Roberts told a reporter from the Kansas City Star. “We can’t confirm him.”

Roberts apparently hadn’t wanted to make that known, but he followed up later with a statement in which he blamed Democrats for making it difficult “for any nominee to be confirmed.”

But in the case of Kobach and Cuccinelli, this isn’t just a matter of the usual partisan jousting. Cuccinelli’s track record includes support of anti-immigrant policies, but also anti-LGBT and anti-women legislation as a state lawmaker and Virginia attorney general. Kobach helped state and local governments write anti-immigration laws and ordinances so punitive and disrespectful of constitutional rights that most of them were thrown out of court. Then, as Kansas secretary of state, he pushed through voting laws based on the conspiracy theory of widespread voting among undocumented immigrants. A federal judge ruled that the laws prevented tens of thousands of eligible voters from casting ballots, meaning Kobach — not non-citizens — had damaged the integrity of the state’s elections.

As for Cain, whose 2012 run for president went off the tracks amid allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, his potential nomination appeared all but dead this month when a fourth GOP senator —Kevin Cramer of North Dakota — said he wouldn’t back Cain.

This is a step in the right direction, though long overdue. For two years and running, Americans have been left to wonder whether there was any limit to Republicans’ willingness to abandon their own morals and ethics to appease Trump.

Of course, time will tell whether the pushback has any real legs. And Trump is raising the stakes with his purge of DHS, his threat to release detained immigrants in sanctuary cities and the report that he told the Customs and Border Protection commissioner that he’d pardon him if he broke the law in blocking asylum-seekers.

This is the stuff of authoritarian governments.

So the Republicans who are reining in Trump are doing the right thing for the country, but now they need to ramp it up. Our system of government depends on Congress serving as a check and balance on the executive branch.

But blocking extremists’ path to power is also the right thing to do if they want their party to get votes among anyone but the president’s core voters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell apparently understands that. As reported by Politico,McConnell recently told participants at a closed-door Republican policy lunch that the anti-establishment Senate Conservatives Fund, headed by Cuccinelli, “had cost the GOP seats in 2010 and 2012 by guiding the party from more electable candidates.”

Supporting detestable nominees would only push the party further in that direction.