Editorial: Sen. Thom Tillis takes a stand

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The scene in the US Senate these days looks a little bit like a game of chicken between the president and the slim Republican majority.

Last week, the junior senator from North Carolina blinked.

It’s easy to forget that Sen. Thom Tillis is relatively new to politics — a dozen years ago he held a seat on the Cornelius Town Council. From there it was straight to the NC General Assembly, a seat won in a primary because no Democrats had filed to run, and then won his next three elections without the obstacle of a challenger from either party. He became speaker of the House after the 2010 Republican revolution. His toughest win was also his biggest: Defeating Kay Hagan in 2014 by 1.6 points and flipping the Senate seat red.

Now, just halfway through his first term in Washington, DC, Sen. Tillis has decided to become the voice of the reasonable right.

Up until last week, Tillis voted in near lockstep with President Trump — FiveThirtyEight, which tracks such things, clocks it at 95.8 percent, with the only disagreement being sanctions on Russia.

But it looks like he’s had enough.

Last week Tillis was so fed up he reached across the aisle — a risky move for a Republican in the US Senate these days — to effectively block the president from firing Robert Mueller, who is currently investigating the administration for ties to Russia.

On the Sunday news shows, Tillis didn’t deny that his bill was directed specifically at the president.

His bill, co-sponsored with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), would allow Mueller — were he to be fired — to challenge the termination before a three-judge panel. A similar bill, by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), would require judicial review before the firing of a special counsel could take place.

The Graham/Booker package seems the better of the two, plus it’s got great name recognition. But the Tillis/Coons bit would make for much better television, and we’re proud to see North Carolina’s own taking a stand.