Corker says GOP's deference to Trump resembles 'cult'

The Tennessee senator is trying to pass a bill to check Trump's tariff power.

June 13, 2018, 2:39 PM

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, went after his fellow GOP senators for a second straight day Wednesday, saying he thinks his party is acting like a "cult" in the way it's backing away from doing anything it thinks President Donald Trump might oppose.

"It's almost becoming a cultish thing, isn't it. And it's not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be, purportedly, of the same party," the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman told reporters.

Corker was expressing frustration about a bill he wrote that would require congressional approval of any tariffs imposed over national security concerns after Trump did so to justify steel and aluminum tariffs on allies.

The measure has several Republican cosponsors but Corker has accused GOP leaders of preventing him from adding his measure as an amendment to a must-pass defense policy bill because, as Corker charged Tuesday, they say they're worried about upsetting Trump.

“No, no, no, we might poke the bear' is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways: 'We might poke the bear. The president of the United States might get upset with us,’" Corker mocked his colleagues as saying.

Asked about Corker's "cult" comment, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said, “I’m not going to dignify that with a response.”

Sen. Bob Corker talks with reporters before the Republican Senate Policy luncheon at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, June 12, 2018.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

The bill currently has eight Republican cosponsors. None is facing re-election this year, all of them have been up either in different cycles or preparing to leave the Senate, like Corker.

Corker also told reporters that he is planning to bring Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in next week for a hearing on the results of President Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. He said Pompeo is also set to brief the full Senate.

The Tennessee senator said hearing from Pompeo would be the surest way to get a true sense of what exactly was agreed to during the meeting, reports of which have varied.

"The president has a tendency from time to time to do something ad hoc that hasn't been vetted with people around him and then sometimes they'll walk those things back," he said.

He also dismissed Trump’s optimistic tweet from early Wednesday morning declaring the North Korean nuclear threat gone.

“That would be hyperbole,” he said. Asked if such language was appropriate, he added, “I mean, if you want to use hyperbole, that's a great example of hyperbole.”

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