After a stunning week in Washington that included President Donald Trump firing FBI Director James Comey during the middle of an active investigation of connections between Trump’s campaign, associates and Russia, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) dropped a bombshell of his own on Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking at an event in his home state of California, McCarthy told an audience that “[Congress] serves at the pleasure of the President” and suggested that if members of Congress lost Mr. Trump’s confidence, they would “lose their jobs.”
Of course, that’s not how the federal government works.
Under the Constitution, the United States has three co-equal branches of government. The President, elected every four years, leads the executive branch. The House, elected every two years, and the Senate, with staggered six-year terms, forms the legislative branch. And the Supreme Court, with its nine justices appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, sits atop the judicial branch.
If the President loses confidence in Congress, he has little recourse except urging the American people to “throw the bums out” and elect Representatives and Senators who are more inclined to support him and his agenda.
To the contrary, if Congress loses confidence in the President, they can always impeach him and remove him from office. That requires a simple majority in the 435-member House and a two-thirds vote in the 100-member Senate.
Given that Mr. Trump has only been in office for four months, virtually no members of Congress have seriously contemplated impeachment. But most Democrats and even some Republicans have called for a much more extensive investigation of Mr. Trump’s Russian ties, including by both a special prosecutor and some sort of bipartisan committee or commission.
The impediment to that heightened level of scrutiny has been House and Senate Republicans, including Mr. McCarthy, who has consistently opposed any sort of heightened scrutiny of the Trump administration.
There may be legitimate reasons why Mr. McCarthy and his Republican colleagues oppose more substantial transparency and accountability around our nation’s 45th president. But Mr. McCarthy is wrong, wrong, wrong when he states that Congress serves at the pleasure of President Trump. In reality, it’s the other way around.