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How much longer will Trump's honeymoon with congressional Republicans last?

021517 Ponnuru Blog Post pic
If ever there was a president from whom to take some executive authority back, it is Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)

If this is the honeymoon, prospects for the marriage between President Trump and congressional Republicans are bleak. We're not even a month in and many Republicans are looking nervously for the nearest exit.

With a White House mired in internal chaos and at war with intelligence agencies, who can blame them? More large-scale protests over Trump's policies are being planned. Ordinarily sleepy Republican town hall meetings have become anger-fueled shouting matches over Trump's plans to repeal Obamacare and crack down on illegal immigration.

The recklessness of this administration is manifest, and many Republicans are loath to be beholden to it.

Just this week, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, questioned the White House over the president's handling of potentially sensitive material on the Mar-a-Lago terrace when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in town. Also this week, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., (my former employer) called for a full-scale investigation into the administration's ties with Russia, including questioning of now-former national security adviser Mike Flynn's communications with the Russians.

These are serious issues of national security that require lawmakers with the fortitude to take on their party's president to act in the interest of the nation.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is taking a different tack. Wednesday morning he gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation advising fellow conservatives to work with the new administration on "a unifying, principled-and-populist agenda." In the speech, Lee invoked Trump's inaugural address about "transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American People."

Lee continued: "President Trump — with a new Congress, eager to be led — has an unprecedented opportunity to fulfill this mandate. And our conservative principles of constitutionalism and localism — mixed with a healthy dose of the president's intuitive American nationalism — are perfectly suited to the task and the moment." He then proceeded to outline his own agenda that he believed would advance that mix of principles.

How eager Congress is to be led by Trump is certainly open to question. Lee's speech seems more like an example of a senator trying to lead Trump. But what Chaffetz, Blunt and Lee are all doing in different ways is trying to have Congress reassert itself as a coequal branch of government. That means keeping an eye on possible misconduct by this administration, as Chaffetz and Blunt have sought to do. It also means doing the hard work of legislating, and doing it mindful of the political forces that brought Trump to victory, as Lee is advocating.

During former President George W. Bush's administration, congressional Republicans allowed the White House to set the priorities and acted to implement its agenda. Today's Republicans would do well not to follow this pattern.

Congress has dangerously delegated much of its constitutional power to the president and the executive branch. If ever there was a president from whom to take some of that authority back, it is Trump.

April Ponnuru (@AprilPonnuru) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a senior adviser at the Conservative Reform Network. Previously she was an adviser to Jeb Bush's presidential campaign.

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