The belief that Republicans could and would change once Donald Trump
was no longer president was central to Joe Biden
's presidential campaign.
“With Donald Trump out of the way, you’re going to see a number of my Republican colleagues have an epiphany,” Biden said in late 2019.
Biden maintained this belief, and he emphasized his record
of reaching across the aisle. A month before taking office as president, Biden predicted that “you’re going to see an awful lot change” in the Republican Party
with Trump out of the White House
, while acknowledging that it could take six to eight months.
Republicans are supposed to have an epiphany now that Biden is six months into his presidency
, but the Republican Party remains as beholden to Trump as ever.
There is a chance that a $1.1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure
package, which has Biden's support, will pass the Senate. However, on Wednesday, every Republican senator blocked a vote to begin consideration of the bill, citing the need to iron out some details.
Even if the infrastructure bill passes, the Republican Party remains firmly in thrall to Trump in both Washington and the states.
The Senate Republicans blocked the For the People Act
, a broad democracy
reform bill that would improve voting
access and implement campaign finance
reform measures, in June, with every Republican voting against moving
the legislation forward.
“Our entire focus is on stopping this new administration,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
(R-Ky.) said last month, echoing his 2010 remark that the “single most important thing” for Republicans to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.
More recently, McConnell stated that if Republicans retake the Senate, it is “highly unlikely” that Biden would fill an open Supreme Court
“There is no doubt
about Donald Trump’s influence
,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “He has a tremendous impact
on how Republicans respond to critical issues, such as the Jan. 6 commission.... I believe Donald Trump is still the dominant influence among Republican elected officials.”
“I think what candidate Biden said was what we all hoped for, but we haven’t seen it yet, but maybe we will,” he added.
have blamed Biden for everything from causing a chicken wing shortage to destroying girls' sports
and destroying stay-at-home parenting
The Republican Party's response to the Jan. 6 attack
on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters
was the clearest demonstration of its loyalty to Trump: Senate Republicans blocked the establishment of an independent commission with bipartisan support that would have investigated the riot and looked at how to prevent another deadly incident in the future.
Allowing the commission to proceed would have reignited debate and likely resulted in some unfavorable conclusions about the former president's role in encouraging his supporters to march to the Capitol and object to the certification of Biden's election results.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
(D-Calif.) instead established a select committee
to investigate the riot, with Republicans able to nominate members but Pelosi able to reject them. Three of the picks by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
(R-Calif.) were lawmakers who believed Trump's lie about the election and voted to overturn the 2020 results following the Capitol riot
. (Pelosi rejected them.)
Rep. Liz Cheney
(R-Wyo.) was also demoted from her leadership position in the House because she voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot and has continued to criticize him. Cheney, the daughter of a former vice president and once a rising star in the party, voted with Trump 93% of the time
, but her refusal to stand idly by after Jan. 6 has put her political future in the GOP
Indeed, a few Republicans have been willing to call for a different course for their party, but they do not control the agenda and are frequently pushed out.
When asked if Republicans have experienced a post-Trump epiphany, Sen. Mitt Romney
(R-Utah), one of the few senators willing to break with the former president, replied, "I had mine early."
Senator Richard Blumenthal
(D-Conn.) praised Biden for being "incredibly patient" in his pursuit of bipartisanship
“I think he’s going to give it a very sincere and persistent try,” he said. “We’re only six months in and there are results to show for it. I continue to be skeptical. Count me as a skeptic, but I think the president is very clearly in the bipartisan camp.”
The obsession with Trump extends to the states. Spurred on by Trump's lies
and conspiracies about election results, Arizona
's Senate Republicans launched a sham "audit
" of the presidential election
results in the state's largest county, which is being run by a Trump supporter and funded largely by Trump supporters.
, the executive director of the state Republican Party recently resigned after less than six months on the job, citing constant criticism and pressure from the grassroots for his mistake: claiming that the election was not stolen and that Trump was to blame for his loss.
According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released
in June, half of all Republican voters
believe the “audit” will produce evidence that will lead to Trump’s eventual reinstatement as president. A Monmouth University
poll released in late February found that 65% of Republicans believe Biden’s 2020 victory was fraudulent.
According to The Washington Post
, “at least a third of the nearly 700 Republicans who have filed initial paperwork with the Federal Election Commission
to run next year for either the United States Senate
or the House of Representatives
have embraced Trump’s false claims about his defeat.”
Biden has admitted that the Republican Party is not where he expected it to be since taking office.
“I don’t understand the Republicans
,” he admitted after they voted in May to remove Cheney from their ranks.
“I’ve been a Democrat for a long time. We’ve had internal fights and disagreements, but I don’t remember any like this,” Biden added. “I think the Republicans are further away from figuring out who they are and what they stand for than I expected them to be at this point.”
Biden has had a difficult line to walk on the issue of bipartisanship. He has demonstrated a willingness to push his agenda forward without Republican votes
, signing the massive COVID-19 stimulus package
into law despite the fact that every single Republican voted against it. His administration has consistently pointed to bipartisan public support for the bill's items, arguing that bipartisanship is important.
Nowadays, pursuing bipartisanship is more about attracting the votes of moderate Democrats
, such as Sens. Joe Manchin
(W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema
(Ariz.), who have basically said they will not help their party if it goes it alone, and their support is critical because Democrats have only the narrowest of margins in the Senate.
But that approach has its own risks: dragging out negotiations in the hopes of gaining 10 Republicans on board to overcome a filibuster
and pass legislation doesn't always amount to much, and a watered-down, compromise package may mean that other, more progressive Democratic
senators refuse to support it.
Finally, many Democrats believe that, regardless of the final vote count, the public simply wants to see action.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) referred to the American Rescue Plan
, saying, "I don't know a single person who asked me what the composition of the vote was. They want to know what's in the bill. So we just have to focus on delivering and be less fixated on satisfying the 12 pundits who are obsessed with gangs."
Reporting was assisted by Igor Bobic and Arthur