There’s no mystery about why Congress is not going to meaningfully check Trump:
After three weeks in the White House, Mr. Trump has made clear that he is going to continue promulgating conspiracy theories, flinging personal insults and saying things that are plainly untrue. And the Republican-controlled House and Senate seem to have made a collective decision: They will accommodate — not confront — his conduct as long as he signs their long-stalled conservative proposals on taxes, regulations and health care into law.
“There’s a widely held view among our members that, yes, he’s going to say things on a daily basis that we’re not going to like,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Senate Republican, “but that the broad legislative agenda and goals that we have — if we can stay focused on those and try and get that stuff enacted — those would be big wins.”
Such accommodation is coming at a price, attracting incredulous or angry constituents to town hall meetings, leaving members flat-footed when presented with the latest presidential provocation and testing the capacity of now perpetually clogged phone lines on Capitol Hill.
I’ve seen this behavior described as cowardice, but this is incorrect. The Republican conference isn’t too scared to stand up to Trump. They think it’s in their interest not to stand up to him, because he can facilitate their agenda of upward wealth distribution, deregulation of the powerful and regulation of the powerless.
And this is the central problem with comparing where the Republicans are now to where the Democrats were in 1977. The latter Congress picked all kinds of fights with Carter, and vice versa, because there was nothing remotely resembling a coherent governing agenda. That’s not the case here. They won’t succeed on everything — the Reagan Republicans have generally been unsuccessful at actually eliminating New Deal/Great Society programs, and they might not be able to kill the ACA (although I certainly wouldn’t count on that yet.) But as long as Trump will sign what they put on his desk and sign whatever executive orders Mike Pence puts in front of him and nominate the judges the Heritage Foundation tells him to, Congress with leave him alone to pillage the treasury and create diplomatic crises, and a lot of damage will result.