President Donald Trump and Republicans seeking to retain majorities in both houses of Congress have a Rocky Mountain-sized problem on their hands, just as a crucial battle for control of the Senate heats up.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), seems on a mission to make Trump’s political life miserable. And the main beneficiary of the tension could be Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democratic Senate incumbents and challengers.
Gardner voted late thursday for an immigration proposal authored by Schumer. The bill would have suspended immigration enforcement until June 30 and extended amnesty to as many as 10 million illegal aliens now in the U.S.
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Gardner’s vote rippled through conservative and pro-Trump circles, with some political players suggesting Gardner had undercut the GOP and his own committee in the fall election, when the amnesty bill will likely become a hot issue against the Democrats. Instead, Gardner voted for a bill to flood America with illegal immigrants on a pathway to citizenship, voting, and legal employment.
“Not only do Cory Gardner and his pals in the Bush cartel stand in direct opposition to President Trump and his ‘America First’ agenda with their push for amnesty — they stand in direct opposition to the millions of Americans looking for work, whose jobs are outsourced to cheaper, low-skilled illegal immigrants from the South,” Noel Fritsch, a conservative political consultant from North Carolina, told LifeZette.
“Republicans, hard-working Americans, and anyone interested in putting America first should reject Cory Gardner’s vision of a Democrat-run America,” Fritsch added.
To those familiar with Gardner in the last two years, the vote was his latest ill-conceived stance while he runs the NRSC. Gardner, a freshman senator who is in charge of the Republicans’ crucial Senate campaign committee, has never been a fan of Trump. He said in October 2016 he would not vote for Trump after the “Access Hollywood” audio tape was leaked to the media.
Gardner has also gone on record as being against the security wall Trump promised to build along the southern border with Mexico. In March, only weeks after Trump took office, Gardner convened a town hall meeting, and gave succor to anti-Trump activists by declaring, “As far as the wall goes, I believe we have to have border security, but I do think billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed.”
The remark was picked up by Politico, which obtained the audio.
Then, during Easter recess, Gardner ticked off another list of disagreements. Colorado Public Radio reported that Gardner spoke out against Trump’s trade policies, a proposed travel ban, and the president’s budget priorities.
But it was with the immigration vote on Thursday that Gardner stepped up his game against Trump, making life more difficult not just for the White House but also for GOP Senate candidates. Gardner voted for the Schumer-Rounds-Collins bill, a proposal that would have extended immigration to as many as 10 million illegal immigrants (and as few as 5 million, still much more than what Trump proposed).
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was so incensed he sent out a tweet: “Schumer bill is a disgrace. Huge amnesty of 5-10M people, including PARENTS of DACAns. Phantom border control. No chain or diversity reforms. Directs DHS to de-prioritize enforcement for illegals NOT YET IN COUNTRY.”
In an unusual move, the Department of Homeland Security tore into the bill, declaring it was unfavorable to law enforcement. The bill would have suspended enforcement until June 30.
“The Schumer-Rounds-Collins proposal destroys the ability of the men and women from the Department of Homeland Security to remove millions of illegal aliens,” the department said in a statement. “It would be the end of immigration enforcement in America and only serve to draw millions more illegal aliens with no way to remove them. By halting immigration enforcement for all aliens who will arrive before June 2018, it ignores the lessons of 9/11 and significantly increases the risk of crime and terrorism.”
The problem now is that if the NRSC tries to use the vote against Democrats in the fall elections, they can point to the vote by Gardner to counter, according to one Republican adviser close to Trump. Republican consultants said Gardner undermined the NRSC itself on messaging.
The Senate races are key to the GOP’s holding onto at least one chamber of Congress. The Republicans have a tough battle for the House, but in the Senate, the map favors the GOP. There are 34 seats up, and Democrats have to defend 26 of them. Republicans only have to defend eight of them.
But the room for error is narrow. Republicans only have a 51-49 edge in the 100-seat Senate.
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A spokesperson for the NRSC did not respond to numerous requests for comment from LifeZette.
Casey Contres, Gardner’s Senate spokesman, also did not return messages from LifeZette.