Want to actually get something done in Congress? Take a friend hostage. All the Republicans are doing it.
Together, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, along with Deb Fischer of Nebraska, made Trump squeal last week. Grassley threatened to "hold up EPA nominees" if EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reduced the federally-mandated biofuels quota. But that octogenarian Iowan doesn't have a seat on the Environmental and Public Works Committee. As the Wall Street Journal notes, Ernst and Fischer do — meaning Grassley calls the shots and they do the dirty work.
Cowed by that corn cartel, the Trump administration caved on ethanol. And if the president isn't careful, if the White House doesn't take a harder line with the legislature, this sort of thing could really catch on. Even the No. 2 Republican in the Senate is already doing it.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is holding a senior White House nominee, Russ Vought for OMB deputy-director, for ransom. And really, why not? The Senate majority whip wants more money for Hurricane Harvey relief. He watched Trump cave to the ethanol industry earlier and now he's running the same play.
Obviously this sort of horse trading happens in politics. It's just supposed to happen behind closed doors in private. When caught red-handed though, Cornyn didn't even flinch. He owned up and doubled down, making the rest of Texas complicit by tweeting that he took a hostage "Solely to ensure the next #Harvey aid request from OMB will satisfy Texas's needs IDed by @GovAbbott @tedcruz & me."
That's embarrassing for a president who ran on his prowess as a deal-maker. He's getting manhandled by his own party and, if he doesn't do something about this rough treatment, he will need to get used to it. Grassley, Cornyn, and company haven't passed major legislation, but they've normalized extortion. Soon even the most junior senators could follow suit.
Compromise is a hallmark of democracy. Hostage-taking is not. Trump can't flinch again. The president should take a hard stand. If that means climbing through the air ducts of the Senate chamber, if it means fighting dirty to free his hostages, so be it. Yippee ki-yay, legislators.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.