Heading characterizationally: The Senate Republicans' collective vote on Wednesday disavowing a bipartisan deal on foreign aid and the border that they themselves had spent months demanding was painful to watch. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington State who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, reflected on the mess and asked her colleagues, "What is the point of being a senator if you let Donald Trump make all of the decisions for you?"

The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, just before landing in Washington for a short visit, that the US is every bit as dysfunctional as it looks and that Europeans can now presume that the US is not a reliable ally. He pleaded with the paper's conservative audience to stand with Ukraine, or else "a world even more unstable, threatening and unpredictable than it was during the Cold War."

During the Senate's noon meeting on Thursday, an effort to pass the ninety-five-billion-dollar foreign-aid bill, stripped of its border provisions, failed by two votes the day prior. This time, more than enough Republicans switched their votes, and the measure passed, 67-32. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called it "a good first step," and promised that the Senate would not stop working until it was done. Volodymyr Zelensky sent a grateful message to the Senate for at least proceeding to debate the bill, which should have begun when President Biden sent it to Congress in October. "This is a bad day for Putin, and a good day for democracies," he wrote on X. The bill's fate in the House remains unclear, and Speaker Mike Johnson, who is even more beholden to Trump than his Senate colleagues, may not allow it to come up for a vote at all.

The current meltdown in Washington is the result of many things, but foremost among them, it seems to me, is the crisis of leadership. Mitch McConnell, who is eighty-one and visibly diminished since an accident last year, has been put on notice by the growing faction of Trump-allised rebels within his conference. They may not be able to topple him yet, but they are no longer afraid to openly call for his ouster. In Thursday's vote to move ahead with the foreign-aid spending bill, while McConnell and sixteen other Republicans voted yes, thirty-one Republicans —two-thirds of the G.O.P. conference — voted no. Trump has no bigger remaining enemy within his party than McConnell; he will do whatever he can to undermine him.

In the House, Johnson's Speakership is barely a hundred days old and already flagging. On Tuesday, he suffered the twin embarrassment of losing two major votes in quick succession, including a tie vote dooming, at least temporarily, the effort to impeach Biden's Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, on the ground that he has failed to properly enforce laws to keep the southern border from being overrun by migrants. A more experienced legislative leader would never have put the measure to a floor vote without knowing in advance he had the numbers to pass it. Johnson already has the smallest majority of any modern Speaker, and he could lose another seat in a special election next week to replace the ejected fabulist, George Santos. The Party's restive far-right flank has already insured that this is basically an ungovernable House. One bad word from Trump and it's hard to see how Johnson survives.

The strongest men in America are, these days, looking awfully weak.

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