Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee — two of President Donald Trump’s fiercest GOP critics — will officially be retired as of Thursday when the 116th Congress convenes.
However, incoming Utah senator and former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney appears ready to take up their banner.
Both Flake and Corker staked their ground among the anti-Trump ranks and saw low approval numbers in their respective home states, all but dictating decisions not to seek re-election in 2018.
Flake — who published the book “Conscience of a Conservative” months after Trump took office — not only took swipes at him in the book, but throughout the 45th president’s first two years in the White House.
Last spring, the Snowflake, Arizona, native said the “presidency has been debased” by Trump and the commander in chief has a “bottomless appetite for destruction and division.”
More recently, Flake refused to support dozens of the president’s judicial nominees, unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a floor vote for legislation the Arizonan cosponsored with Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey, which shielded special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by Trump.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 19, 2018
In November, Flake said that he hopes a Republican runs against Trump, Fox News reported.
“I hope somebody does (run), just to remind Republicans what it means to be conservative and what it means to be decent. We’ve got to bring this back,” he said.
Meanwhile, Corker has referred to the Trump White House as an “adult day care center.”
It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) October 8, 2017
Trump hit Corker last month tweeting, “Senator Bob Corker just stated that, ‘I’m so privileged to serve in the Senate for twelve years, and that’s what I told the people of our state that’s what I’d do, serve for two terms.’ But that is Not True – wanted to run but poll numbers TANKED when I wouldn’t endorse him.”
Corker responded, “Yes, just like Mexico is paying for the wall… #AlertTheDaycareStaff.”
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) December 23, 2018
The Tennessean, who served as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, disagreed with Trump on many of his foreign policy decisions.
Most recently, Corker took exception to Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
“It’s hard to imagine that any president would wake up and make this kind of decision with this little communication, with this little preparation,” he said.
Some in the media are predicting that Romney will step into Flake’s and Corker’s shoes.
The Hill reported that 2012 Republican presidential nominee is “expected to serve as one of the most prominent counterweights to Trump” with the departure of the two senators.
Romney, 71, made a highly-publicized speech during the heat of the 2016 Republican primary during which he claimed, “dishonesty is Trump’s hallmark” and labeled him a “phony” and a “fraud.”
The two met after the election and seemed to reach a truce. Trump, in fact, endorsed Romney in his U.S. Senate race, calling him a “worthy successor” to Orrin Hatch, though he also appeared to signal he would rather have had Hatch, a strong supporter, stay around.
On the eve of taking office, Romney returned to his 2016 GOP primary anti-Trump rhetoric in a scathing Washington Post Op-Ed published on Tuesday night.
He wrote that Trump’s “conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
“A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect,” Romney added. “With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”
Further, the soon-to-be freshman senator promised to “speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions” made by the president.
Some political watchers have speculated that Romney sought the Senate seat to position himself for a run against Trump in 2020.
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