Do Republicans Remember When They Promised They’d Be A Check On Trump?

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When then-candidate Donald Trump was stirring controversy after controversy from the stump, GOP lawmakers, wary of his proposals, vowed that they would be a check on Trump’s most troubling ideas.

Less than two weeks into his presidency, Republicans are facing a major test of that vow. A broad swath of congressional GOPers have come out against Trump’s immigration executive order, which was an outgrowth of his proposed Muslim ban that Republicans roundly condemned during the campaign. What lawmakers will do to act on their concerns remains to be seen.

Here is a look at what some Republicans said when the immigration ban and other extreme Trump proposals were raised during the campaign.

House Speaker Paul Ryan: I’d ‘Sue’ A President Who Exceeded His Constitutional Powers

In a June interview with Huffington Post, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed that Trump would not have a “blank check,” and added that he “would sue any president that exceeds his or her powers.”

The comment came in a back-and-forth about Trump’s Muslim ban proposal, but Ryan also said then he wasn’t sure if Trump acting on it unilaterally would be outside of his constitutional powers. Ryan, on Friday, said he supported Trump’s executive order.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: ‘There Will Be Constraints’ On Trump

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in May said he believed Trump would understand “the limits of his authority” after he was sworn in and would have the advice of the White House counsel. He added, “There will be others who point out there’s certain things you can do and you can’t do.”

“Donald Trump will respond to the basic positions of the Republican Party, and there will be constraints on some of the things that he would like to do that, for example, I don’t, I just don’t agree with,” McConnell said.

McConnell, so far, has suggested he would leave it up to the courts to assess the immigration order.


Mitch McConnell, with Donald Trump, at Republicans’ congressional retreat in Philadelphia.

Sen. Marco Rubio: I Will Be ‘A Check And Balance On Whoever The President Is’

After sharply criticizing Trump in the presidential primary, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) came around on Trump as he pivoted towards the Senate race to keep his seat, while arguing he’d keep the White House in line.

“I do believe whoever wins the presidency you’re going to have to have a Senate willing to confront bad ideas from the White House,” Rubio said in August. “And in the U.S. Senate race in Florida, I am the only one running who has proved and said that they will act as a check and balance on whoever the president is even if it is a president from my own party.”

He also told MSNBC that “no matter who is elected president of the United States,” we are going to “need a Senate that has people willing to check and balance that.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch: I’ll ‘Ensure A President Trump Toes The Line’

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who was not up for re-election in 2016, nonetheless promised he would be a check on Trump, who he was supporting in the presidential campaign.

“You’ve got to make sure you have someone like Orrin Hatch to ensure a President Trump toes the line,” Hatch said in October.

Over the summer, Hatch also expressed optimism that Trump would “lead the way we want him to.”

“Yeah, you can have some reservations, but I tell you this: He’s going to find when he gets there that the only way he’s going to lead, the only way he’s going to be able to have the strength to lead the way he should, is to lead the way we want him to,” Hatch said at a breakfast during the GOP convention.


Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).


Sen. Rob Portman: ‘I Will Stand Up’ When I Disagree With Trump

After distancing himself from Trump during the campaign, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) cast himself as a check against the President in the days after the election.

“I view myself as an independent voice for Ohio and if I disagree with something from the Trump administration, just as would have been the case if it were the [Hillary] Clinton administration, of course I will stand up,” Portman said, after winning his own Senate race. “And I assume others will as well.”

Sen. Pat Toomey: I’ll ‘Stand Up To Any President’s Bad Ideas’

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), amidst a tough re-election race, ran a campaign ad stressing his independence from Trump.

“I have a lot of disagreements with Donald Trump. I’ve been very clear about that,” Toomey said. “But what’s important for Pennsylvanians is having a senator who’ll stand up to any president’s bad ideas.”

Sen. John McCain: We Have Congress To ‘Restrain Someone’ Who Exceeds Constitution

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was critical of Trump during the campaign even as he reluctantly supported him, told the New York Times that he did not believe Trump would threaten the rule of law.

“I still believe we have the institutions of government that would restrain someone who seeks to exceed their constitutional obligations,” McCain said, according to the June report. “We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We’re not Romania.”

Rep. Mike Coffman: ‘I’ll stand up to him. Plain and simple.’

With the redrawing of his district putting Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) in a particularly vulnerable race last year, he took a very strong line on distancing himself from Trump.

In a commercial, Coffman said that he did not “care for” Trump.

“My duty is always to you. So if Donald Trump is the president, I’ll stand up to him. Plain and simple,” Coffman said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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