Far-Right Vows to Tie Up the Senate to Avenge Trump Are So Far Mostly Empty

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Senator Rick Scott is so furious over the felony conviction of former President Donald J. Trump that the Florida Republican says he and his colleagues need to take it out on the Senate, by acting as disrupters and blocking all Biden administration nominees and legislation.

“We can’t have business as usual,” Mr. Scott insisted as the Senate convened this week for the first time since Mr. Trump’s trial ended in New York with a fusillade of “guilty” verdicts.

Yet so far at least, business as usual it is.

Despite the far-right conservative bloc vowing to draw the line against White House nominees and Democratic legislation, three nominees — one a judge for the usually pummeled District of Columbia, no less — have breezed through the Senate this week with plenty of Republican backing.

Obviously not everyone on the G.O.P. side is willing to draw such a hard line in a fit of pique. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader who has repeatedly clashed with his right wing and done more than perhaps anyone else in his party to obstruct Democratic nominees and initiatives in the past, pooh-poohed the effort.

“The solution is to have a Republican majority,” he told reporters. “There are opportunities when you’re in the minority, but not to set the agenda.”

Senator Mike Lee of Utah has led the charge in the Senate to muck up the works in retaliation for Mr. Trump’s conviction, and 11 of his fellow Republicans have signed on to a pledge he put forward to vote against Democratic nominees and bills. The problem for the signatories is that they already typically vote against almost everything from the other side, diminishing the power of their threat to tie up the Senate.

“If you have a handful of people who vote no all the time, then the threat to vote no really doesn’t come with a lot of leverage,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, who hasn’t taken the Lee pledge and would no doubt like to see a major farm bill passed at some point.

Another complication for the rebels is that there just isn’t that much major legislation remaining this year to scuttle, and that which is left — including the farm bill and a major Pentagon policy measure — will need to be bipartisan to succeed anyway.

But those on the right will not be deterred.

“I’m thrilled with those who have joined us so far,” Mr. Lee said. “I think we’ve got to respond — if not by this, then through some other means. I’m open to ideas.”

The day following Mr. Trump’s conviction, Mr. Lee, a onetime Trump critic who has become a devotee, took to the social media platform X to post a statement asserting that the Trump trial showed the White House had made “a mockery of the rule of law and fundamentally altered our politics in un-American ways” even though the trial in New York was a state case with no connection to the Biden administration.

As a result of the trial, the statement declared that signatories would not back any increase in nonsecurity-related funding or any spending bill that funds “partisan lawfare.” In addition, it said they would not vote to confirm any political or judicial nominees or agree to expedite consideration or passage of Democratic bills unrelated to public safety.

“All of us represent our constituencies, and Iowans are fed up with the Biden administration,” said Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, the fourth-ranking Republican and the only member of the party leadership to sign the pledge. “So this is one way that I can support my Iowans and push back on the Biden administration.”

Though the effectiveness of the pledge on the Senate floor might be in doubt, it does have the benefit of giving Republicans a new avenue to express fealty to Mr. Trump now that the trial is over and lawmakers can no longer pop up to New York to bolster him. At least two of the signers, Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and J.D. Vance of Ohio, are considered prime vice-presidential prospects for the Trump ticket.

The pledge also seems to come with a few loopholes. Senator Roger Marshall, the Kansas Republican and a signer, this week voted for a Biden nominee to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission despite having said earlier on X that “words are not enough” to counter the Biden administration.

“I’m more focused on judicial nominations,” Mr. Marshall explained.

Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, said his endorsement of the pledge would not prevent him from pushing for passage of major radiation compensation legislation he has championed, noting that the pledge isn’t that much of a shift for him given his opposition to most things on the floor.

“For me, it is really no change,” he said.

Despite lacking big numbers, those signing the statement could force nuisance procedural votes that consume Senate floor time and irritate their colleagues — though to date, they have refrained from such steps.

And while the Senate has been able to proceed with nominations, Republicans could pose problems for Democrats if they decided to band together. With Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who recently switched his party affiliation to independent, on trial back home on corruption charges, Democrats don’t have a vote to spare in the 51-to-49 Senate. At the same time, another newly declared independent, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, has said he will not vote for any Biden judicial nominee who does not have bipartisan support, potentially putting Democrats in a bind.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he was concerned about the G.O.P. pledge because it would be wrong to penalize nominees for something beyond their control.

“There are many competent, able candidates for the judicial vacancies around the country and they shouldn’t be swept away by any politics of the moment,” he said.

But as Mr. Cramer, the North Dakota Republican, assessed the position of his colleagues, he noted that pledges like those put forward in the aftermath of the Trump verdict have the potential to complicate life for those who sign on as much as their intended target.

“I do think you can handcuff yourself,” he said, “when you think you’ve really handcuffed someone else.”



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