Monday, May 15, 2017

What Schumer and the Dems Need To Do Regarding Comey's Replacement

It's nice that Chuck Schumer is drawing his own red line by demanding that any new FBI director not be a "partisan politician" from "either party," and that voting on James Comey's replacement might be contingent upon the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Donald Trump and his administration.

Unfortunately for Schumer, Democrats only have 48 seats in the Senate - that's why he's the minority leader and not the majority leader. At present, all Trump needs is 50 Republican senators to do what they've been doing since he was sworn in as president: turn a blind eye and pretend the Republic isn't in mortal jeopardy. Up until now, with a couple of exceptions, things have gone pretty much according to his plan.

So in order to deny Il Duce an opportunity to name a lackey that will ostensibly quash the Russian investigation, Schumer is going to need some help; and by help I mean finding three Republicans who will be brave enough to join ranks with his party. That won't be easy, not in this polarized environment. As we speak Mitch McConnell is working on a way to fast track an Obamacare repeal bill through the Senate without going through committee. In other words, despite their criticisms of the way the lower chamber handled the repeal process, the GOP is fixing to do virtually the same thing in the upper chamber. How's that for underhanded?

Still Schumer must do the seemingly impossible, even if it means sacrificing a rook or a knight to do it. As strange as it might seem, this latest stunt by Trump has aroused some concerns even within his own party. This could give Schumer and Democrats just the opening they need to block him and perhaps get the special prosecutor they've been asking for ever since Comey first went public about the FBI investigation.

Unlike the House, there are still a number of "moderate" Republicans in the Senate. I use the term moderate only because once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, they would've been referred to as conservative. They are basically what's left of the George H.W. Bush / Bob Dole wing of the party; just left of Reagan and a football field's length away from the current rank and file. You can count 'em on one hand plus one finger: John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Richard Burr, Rob Portman and Dean Heller. FYI: with the exception of Burr, they're also among the likely senators who could derail the ACA repeal effort. Just saying.

Schumer needs to find a way to entice at least three of these senators to not only block Trump, but to stand up with the Democrats and demand a special prosecutor. McCain would be my first choice. Call it my women's intuition - we all have it - but I suspect McCain has never quite gotten over Trump's slight at him during the primaries and would like nothing better than to return the favor. A "no" vote would do just nicely. As to a special prosecutor, McCain has been an advocate of it for weeks.

Next up would be Burr. As the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he along with Vice-chair Mark Warner, are currently investigating possible collusion between members of the Trump Administration and Russia. He is already on record as saying Comey's dismissal was "troubling." While Burr may not agree to a special prosecutor, he might be inclined to insist that any future FBI director be non-partisan.

My third choice would be Murkowski or Collins or both. If approached properly, I think both could be persuaded to, if not support a special prosecutor, than at least demand that Trump pick someone qualified, with no political ties to head the FBI. If both sign on that would give Schumer a total of 52 "no" votes with which to compel Trump to do the right thing.

But in order to get the aforementioned senators to jump ship, Schumer might have to give up something of importance. Obamacare shouldn't be it. The way Republicans are getting it from their constituents at town halls, why on Earth would Schumer part with that bargaining chip? More than likely, Schumer will have to blink on tax reform. Without a total repeal of the tax subsidies in Obamacare - which Republicans can do through reconciliation - McConnell will need 60 votes to get any tax plan through. Schumer could dangle some of his members support in exchange for getting some Republicans to show some spine. A quid pro quo of sorts.

It would be quite a gamble. The sort of tax reform the GOP is proposing would blow a hole the size of the Grand Canyon through the deficit and might well double or triple the debt over the next ten years. Schumer could make his members' support conditional upon some kind of role in the drafting of the legislation. While it's unlikely McConnell would agree to that condition, Schumer should at least make the attempt. If nothing else it would give Democrats another issue to run on in next year's midterms.

Grand speeches are laudable, as are declarations, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We are dealing with a would-be dictator who is doing everything possible to eliminate any and all obstacles to his authority. History will not care how he was stopped; only that he was.

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