Thanks to the FBI scandal and Trump keeping himself scarce, the prognosis for Republicans appears to be improving at the exact right moment. Even if it is not enough for Trump to win the presidency, it is very likely Republicans will retain narrow control of the Senate and easily preserve their majority in the House.
We will be left with the same malignant Senate GOP we always had.
While much of the conservative movement has been consumed this year over the raging debate about Trump, conservatives seem to forget that the bigger schism is still in place. Many of the key “leaders” in Washington who spent decades before this election capitulating to Democrats, and whose perfidious leadership gave rise to Trump, are still around. And most of them probably aren’t going anywhere.
But there is another important dimension to the problem of the long-term GOP capitulators: they are all, for the most part, senior citizens with little conservative energy or initiative beyond remaining in power as an end to itself. They have literally been in Washington for decades, and have placed their own personal needs above nation and party, washing away any ancillary good they may have done in their earlier years.
Let’s be even blunter: the modern Republican Party is dominated by timid, tired, old men (and a few women) who have spent way too many years in Washington and need to go home – or, more accurately, need to be sent home.
Clearly, is important to respect seniority, and it is wise to honor experience. Indeed, the foundation for the name of the Senate tells us that the Founding Fathers probably envisioned a Senate filled with the more senior and more experienced among us. They were working on the assumption that not only would these men be wiser, but also that they would use their knowledge and experience of policy and procedure to fight for the legislative branch’s ability to affect the national agenda and stand up for their respective states. It is clear that the Founding Fathers never quite foresaw the sad collection of Republican elders that fill today’s Senate who have abdicated their power to the bureaucracies and the federal judiciary and have allowed them to crush their states.
The problem is particularly acute in situations where these older senators occupy key committee chairmanships, which all but guarantees that these committees do very little, if anything, of value. To begin with, Republicans will continue to languish under the “leadership” of Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn. Now, add to that key committee chairmen who are fundamentally not qualified to represent Republicans on their respective panels at this point. Not only do we have scores of Senate Republicans who are not committed to our principles on fiscal, social, and national security issues, there are key leaders who should have long retired, yet remain in power for their own selfish glorification.
For example (ranked in terms of how many years they have been in Washington):
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. (F, 22%); Age: 78; Time in Washington: 43 years.
Cochran was first elected to the Fourth District of Mississippi in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972, the year when President Nixon won re-election to a second term. Six years later, he was elected to represent Mississippi in the Senate. He has been in the Senate ever since, and is in the midst of his seventh six-year term. His combined time in the House and the Senate puts his total number of years in Washington at a whopping 43 years, making him the second most senior current Republican senator and the third most senior current senator overall. His seniority puts him in charge of the all-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. During his two-year tenure as chairman, the committee has all but acceded to every one of the Obama administration’s spending demands, and has allowed Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. (F, 2%) and Harry Reid, D-Nev. (F, 2%) to control the power of the purse.
Cochran’s issues go beyond his duration in Washington and his apparent willingness to shepherd the liberal agenda. There have been quite a few rumors raising questions whether Cochran still has the proper frame of mind to hold such a demanding job. Even though he is one of highest ranking senators, he rarely speaks in public and I can’t remember the last time he spoke on the Senate floor or rigorously debated a major policy issue. He was even scarce on the campaign trail when he was challenged by Chris McDaniel in the 2014 primary. Cochran refused to debate his opponent a single time and orchestrated most of the campaign through advertisements and surrogates. Any candidate who is unfit to engage in a debate during the most contentious runoff election of the year and his career should not stand for reelection.
Despite the fact that Cochran has been in Washington for almost two generations (and has probably been in Congress longer than many of the people reading this have been alive), there is no indication that he does not intend to run when he is up for re-election in 2020. He will be 82 years old in 2020. Were Cochran to run for an eighth six-year term and serve that entire term, he would be 88 years old at the conclusion of that term, and will have been in Washington for a mind-boggling 53 years promoting big government with as much enthusiasm as liberals. Assuming the claims of Cochran’s mental incapacity are true, it would mean another six years of establishment puppeteering of a sick old man, depriving the people of Mississippi of true representation in the Senate. Yet, given his money, name recognition, and “machine” support, how can he be beat?
Sen. Charles “Chuck” Grassley, R-Iowa (D, 66%) (R-Iowa); Age: 83; Time in Washington: 42 years.
Grassley has been in Congress since 1975, when he was elected to represent the Third District of Iowa in the House in the post-Watergate Republican bloodbath midterm election of 1974. Six years later, he was elected to the Senate, in the same year that President Reagan won election to his first term. Grassley has literally been in Congress since Gerald Ford was in the White House. At the age of 83, Grassley is running for his seventh six-year term in the Senate, which, assuming he is able to finish his term, would give him 42 years in the Senate, and 48 years in Washington. Despite his lengthy tenure in Washington, it is unclear if Grassley is willing to make this seventh term his last.
While Grassley was once among the most ardent conservatives in the Senate, particularly during the Reagan years, he has clearly faded in terms of his willingness to fight on behalf of the people and principles who first sent him to Washington in the first place. His recent years in Congress can, unfortunately, be summed up by his last two years as chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He has been one of the most ineffective and capricious chairmen in recent memory.
In the wake of Republican election victories in 2014 that gave Republicans control of the Senate again for the first time since the Bush Administration, Grassley has avoided doing pretty much anything of value from a conservative perspective. He has a reputation of being a vigorous champion of oversight and whistleblowers, and yet he has done virtually nothing to use the Judiciary Committee’s investigative capacity to highlight the unprecedented corruption of the Obama Administration, including its undisguised efforts to crush whistleblowers. Grassley has also been largely AWOL when it comes to some of the more significant issues that have arisen this year, ranging from Planned Parenthood’s fetal organ trafficking and Loretta Lynch’s transgender mania. Despite the egregiousness of both of these topics, neither was deemed sufficiently important by Grassley to merit even a single hearing, much less the focus of the committee. (But rest assured: he chaired a hearing on seed sale competition back in September and was all over transparency of asbestos trusts and ensuring a right to counsel for federal misdemeanor offenders. Our long national nightmare is over.)
In terms of significant legislation, especially as it relates to immigration, terrorism, and refugees, Grassley has similarly been out to lunch. Indeed, the only legislation that Grassley has fought for to any substantial degree is the liberal priority of jailbreak.
Sen. Orrin Hatch , R-Utah (F, 33%); Age: 82; Time in Washington: 40 years.
In terms of people who have overstayed their welcome in Washington, Hatch may actually be worthy of first place. First elected to Congress as a senator in 1976, Hatch is currently serving his seventh term as senator, and will become the second longest-serving senator in U.S. history on January 14, 2017 (behind Strom Thurmond). Hatch won his seventh six-year term in the Senate in 2012 in part on the promise that this term would be his last and his most conservative. Sadly, there are recent reports indicating that he may have lied to Utah voters in order to win re-election in 2012. It appears he is actively exploring re-election to his eighth term in the Senate, and has already begun outreach to fundraisers and supporters to make that happen. If Hatch were to somehow survive through a hypothetical eighth term, he would have served 48 years — 48 years — in the Senate, and be 90 years old at the conclusion of that term in 2024.
Hatch’s likely-to-end two-year tenure as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — which has jurisdiction over the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service, and would be the driver of tax reform legislation — can fairly be called ineffective. Hatch has all but allowed the former Democrat chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. (F, 6%), to dictate Senate Finance’s agenda. Last year, Hatch released an all-too-gentle assessment of the Obama Administration’s abuse of Tea Party groups seeking non-profit status via the IRS. Adding insult to injury, he released that report during the black hole of the August 2015 congressional recess, all but guaranteeing a lack of attention by lawmakers and the public. Hatch has also been napping during the discussion of the Obama Administration’s shipping of literally hundreds of millions of dollars in bulk cash to the terrorism-sponsoring Islamic Republic of Iran.
In what has become known as the “Hatch effect” — lurching to the right during election years — Hatch voted as a solid conservative during his competitive primary in 2012, only to drop down to a failing grade of 33% since winning reelection. From promoting the Gang of 8 Amnesty to confirming liberal judges and voting for every major spending bill and new program, Hatch violated every promise he made in seeking an ill-fated seventh term just so he can make the Senate his private retirement home.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (F, 32%); Age: 80; Time in Washington: 34 years.
McCain has been in Congress since 1983, and in the Senate since 1987, giving him a grand total of 34 years in Washington. He turned 80 years old this year, on August 29, the day before he won an unexpectedly competitive primary. Should McCain win this re-election effort, he will be 86 years old at the completion of this upcoming sixth term in 2022. Despite his long tenure in Washington, even now, in his race for a sixth term in the Senate, McCain has refused to commit to this being his final term in the Senate if he wins.
While McCain has arguably had his positive moments (and we should be grateful for his military service), none of them have come in the last 10 years. McCain has dutifully served as Chuck Schumer’s, D-N.Y. (F, 2%) forward guard in promoting liberal causes.
As the current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain has stood limply by and presided over Defense Department authorization legislation that will draft women into combat, ignore Obama’s transgender and anti-conscience policies in the military, and pay for abortions overseas. For someone who has built a political career based on his military service (including his time in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp), he seems oblivious to the fact that his promotion of the Left’s social engineering agenda via the Senate Armed Services Committee is likely to guarantee that more American soldiers are killed and captured by our enemies. As the ranking member of that committee in the prior Congress, he was very, very off in his support of so-called Syrian moderate rebels and the Libyan insurgents, many of whom are now the leadership backbone of numerous Islamic factions and Al Qaeda splinter groups.
There are others who are ostensibly on our side for whom you could make a straight-faced argument that they have been in Washington too long. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (F, 40%) and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. (D, 68%) have both been senators since the 1980s. Similar, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. (C, 72%), between his House and Senate service, has been in Washington for 30 years at this point. But the fact of the matter is, these others do not even come close to the four discussed at length above.
If the Senate was nothing more than a retirement village, this would be fine. But it’s not a retirement village. It is the half of Congress where brash, unapologetic conservative leadership is essential, and where an individual senator can use the tools of the chamber to force things to happen on legislation and important issues. With half the members not committee to one shred of constitutionalism and the other half living out their golden years in pursuit of power as an end to itself, the GOP Senate will never serve, in is current orientation, as a proper check on Democrat tyranny.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.