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Republicans in Congress are bracing themselves for life as usual under Trump, which means they will be subject to awkward questions on his unpredictable political assaults and policy whims.

Republicans are experiencing a taste of what it will be like to face future shellshock similar to what they faced in 2016 and during Trump’s presidency, as he leads the GOP primary pack and even President Joe Biden in certain surveys. It’s going to be around for at least another eleven months. And then maybe another four years.

A very unpleasant feeling of déjà vu is setting in some Republicans as a result of Trump’s new demand to replace the Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans have grown more and more resigned to the prospect that another general election might subject them to the often-hypocritical and factually-challenged rhetoric of the former president, even if many of them have avoided Trump in recent years.

Republicans on Capitol Hill, however, are bracing themselves to handle Trump the third time around in the same manner they handled Trump the novice candidate and later president. They’re trying to put distance between themselves and his comments, which address both policy concerns (such as his desire to repeal Obamacare) and political grievances (such as his promise to punish MSNBC severely for its negative coverage).

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said, “He is almost a stream of consciousness.” Cassidy is one of just three Republicans in the Senate who will stay after voting to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial; the other two either resigned or intend to go next year. According to Cassidy, it’s “similar to when every day he would tweet, and 99 percent of the time it never came to anything.”

But perhaps more so than during his first term, Trump’s return could ignite the same conflicts with the Hill GOP that were so damaging to the party’s fortunes. There are several points of contention in his agenda that could lead to conflicts: Trump is expected to nominate individuals who irritate Republican leaders in the Senate and launch a divisive effort to reform the civil service so that it is less autonomous.

The political sphere is another potential flashpoint. If Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky seeks to retain his position as Senate Minority Leader under a second Trump administration, Trump may attempt to remove him from office. If Trump is elected, the Republicans in the House may also undergo a leadership transition, as the former president has the authority to remove a leader he does not approve of.

Leadership is a complete mystery, that much is clear to me. One Trump supporter who has lately started publicly criticising Speaker Mike Johnson is Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio). “I don’t think any of them survive after this term,” he added.

Establishment Republicans were constantly at odds with Trump during his first four years in office. They wanted a different nominee in 2016 but eventually came around to supporting him. Following the violent riot on January 6, 2021, tensions reached a boiling point, with 17 Republicans from both houses of Congress opposing Trump during his second impeachment trial and numerous Republicans criticising him for inciting the Capitol uprising.

By the year 2024’s conclusion, the majority of those seventeen Republicans will have left Congress. By reducing his online rants and less appealing policy suggestions, and by ignoring fears that he would lose to Biden again, the remaining are gradually reviving an old dynamic.

“I’m under no illusions what that would be like,” stated Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who voted to acquit Trump and was the GOP whip during Trump’s first two years in office. In a race between Trump and Biden, I will be rooting for Trump. However, there are certainly obstacles to overcome in doing so.

A more direct statement came from retired Utah Republican Mitt Romney, who had a hand in convicting Trump in both of his impeachment proceedings. “They had nothing,” he stated, recalling a meeting with a health secretary while Trump was president and delving into administration policy. With no plan, no framework, and no guiding principles.

According to Romney, Trump often makes promises that he never plans to fulfil. “You stop caring about his words and realise: We’ll watch his actions.”

The Republican response to Trump’s candidature and intentions for reelection on Capitol Hill is of little concern to Trump. Even though just thirteen of the fifty Republican senators have given their support to Trump, he already has eighty-plus GOP endorsements in the House, and that number is only going to increase. Defending the previous president’s “second term will be one for the ages” and criticising Biden, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung issued a statement.

The avalanche of scandals surrounding Trump is an inevitable aspect of his presidency, even for those who approved of his actions while he was in office.

Members of Congress who “get really tired of answering questions about Donald Trump” are among those who “utilise Donald Trump for their political benefit,” as Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) reminded us. Plus, I feel bad for the president because of that. The good stuff doesn’t exist apart from the full package.

If Trump keeps barreling towards the nomination, another GOP divide between the House and Senate is also probable. Given their red-leaning terrain, Republicans in the Senate may reclaim the majority next year regardless of his presidential loss.

However, the destiny of the Republicans in the House is more closely tied to the whims of the unpredictable former president. Some of Trump’s Republican opponents in the House have shaken their heads and scowled in interviews to indicate they aren’t interested in attempting to govern with him at all.

Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) said, “Shit, yeah,” when asked if his colleagues are concerned about potential conflicts with Trump. “The orange Jesus?” he asked, his voice filled with mirth.

Despite Trump’s turbulent exit from office and subsequent indictments, his supporters said that his second term would be more smooth-going than the first.

Trump has “learned that there are people who [he] can trust and can’t trust,” according to Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a powerful right-wing voice in the House.

“Allies like me who are moderately pragmatic, that are all in on the America First agenda,” the presidential frontrunner would prefer to work with, according to Miller, a former aide of Trump’s. In contrast, the eight conservatives (including Biggs) who voted to remove former Speaker Kevin McCarthy from office are more unpredictable. “The freak shows within our party” were the Trump supporters he called out.

Republican senators, according to Trump’s staff, would align with their more conservative colleagues, such as Florida’s Rick Scott and Ohio’s J.D. Vance, who are both pro-Trump. Johnson did, in fact, meet with Trump at Mar-a-Lago during a recent campaign fundraiser at Trump’s club; he has also endorsed Trump for president. The two gentlemen, who have known one other since Trump’s initial impeachment when Johnson was a member of the Judiciary Committee, shook hands, spoke, and posed for a photo.

Nearly every Republican in the House, including Johnson, backed Trump’s attempts to rescind the election. However, the majority of Republicans in the Senate did not, which might lead to continued obstructionism towards McConnell and his associates in the event that Trump regains the presidency.

With the remark “there’s not much that Trump hasn’t said on that himself,” a Trump associate shrugged off a query on McConnell’s relationship with Trump.

The McConnell campaign did not want to be interviewed for this article. His relationship with Trump, which broke down after January 6, has not been revived by him in the least.

Republicans in North Dakota’s Senate have maintained that McConnell and Trump can reignite their alliance “remembering that there is pre-election and then there is post-election,” according to Sen. Kevin Cramer. When new leaders take office, everything changes.

Someone else with ties to Trump’s campaign brought up the possibility of future animosity directed towards Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), whose reelection Trump had pledged to oppose. (Thune had an easy victory in 2022.)

Despite Trump’s advantages, Thune expressed his approval of messages from former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign in an interview. With the primary campaign heating up, Thune warned his Republican colleagues to “be prepared to respond to similar types of ideas and proposals and statements in the future” from Trump.

Outside of bracing for the unexpected, those Republicans who were in office during Trump’s first term are hesitant to provide any forecasts regarding the future.

While many Republicans fear Trump’s reemergence into the limelight, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) noted that “everybody is being more private about it.”

According to Simpson, many of his coworkers are concerned about “four years of revenge… we just have to wait and see,” and he doubts that he will act differently.

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