Back in the 1970s, there was a congressman named Wayne Hayes who was the Chairman of the House Administration committee. It sounds fairly dull, but it was the committee with jurisdiction over staff and other perks that made congressional life easier; they never oversaw popular votes such as things having to do with taxpayer money. So, Hayes built a power base by passing a resolution that permitted the committee to increase these allowances without having a vote of the House. As committee chair, he was willing to take all the heat and members appreciated it. Though his colleagues didn’t much like him, in his plan to run for Speaker in 1976 against Tip O’Neill, he had their full support built on this gratitude and his willingness to shield them from criticism.
Then one day the story broke that his girlfriend was on the committee payroll but, as she so famously said, she “couldn’t type or file or even answer the phone.” Suddenly Hayes became the scourge of the heat and members were asked what they would do and how could they support him. They dropped him like a bad habit! Soon, not only did he lose his chairmanship, he also resigned from Congress in disgrace.
The reason to recount this story is to see how President Trump will fare with his party in Congress. He has no strong personal relationships and now is taking all of the heat on many issues. As a new President, he has a lot to bestow upon his supporters. Now they have little cost politically since he shoulders almost all of the criticism.
The question to ask is what will happen when he becomes the source of the heat. You may remember during the campaign, when the “famous” tape was released, many now-supporters fled because he was the reason they were being criticized. Will that really change when something bad occurs as it always does for every administration? I anticipate the canary in the mine, so to speak, will be Mitch McConnell. While his wife, Elaine Chao, is in the administration as Secretary of Transportation, he will not risk losing the Senate for Trump. However, when he starts sounding more cautious, we will know it is time to man the lifeboats as his fellow members of Congress look for a seat.