Trump handles stumble like a businessman: by moving on
But failure of GOP priority endangers rest of his agenda.
Donald Trump ran for president as a businessman who could make a deal. But on Friday, he failed to close the biggest deal of his young presidency.
And then, like a businessman, he moved on.
“That’s what you have to do in business if you fail,” said Rep. Roger Williams, a Texas Republican and, perhaps more relevant in this instance, a car dealer. “You move on. You don’t worry about it. He’s going to move on.”
For Trump, House leaders’ decision not to vote on a Republican replacement for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act when they realized they did not have the votes to pass it was his first legislative setback — on one of the biggest promises he’d made on the campaign trail.
But after working to win passage, calling or meeting with 120 House members over days and inviting insurance and pharmaceutical companies, business owners, patients, union leaders, truckers and workers to the White House to lobby them, Trump appeared to be ready to move on to the next fight.
Even as House leaders were still trying to gather votes Friday morning, Trump had picked a new battle, announcing that his administration had approved construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. After the repeal bill was pulled, Trump said his next battle would be tax reform.
“We couldn’t quite get there. We were just a very small number of votes short in terms of getting our bill passed,” Trump said after the bill was pulled.
That means, Trump said, that Obamacare, as the ACA is known popularly, will remain the law of the land. At least until it fails and Democrats are willing to work with Republicans on an alternative. “Bipartisan,” he said, “is always better.”
Still, the stunning defeat of what has been a legislative priority for Republicans for seven years could make it more difficult to get through Trump’s other legislative priorities, even though Republicans control both chambers of Congress: changes to the tax code, curbing illegal immigration, pumping more money into the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, and keeping the federal government running.
“It makes it very difficult to do the tax reform that a lot of us think that we need to do,” said Rep. Mario DiazBalart, R-Fla., who supported the bill. Failure, he said, is “a big blow to the agenda and that means everything.”
Republican strategist Kevin Madden said the first 200 days of a new presidency are usually a very reliable time in which to get some big things done.
“So we’ve essentially burned about 60 days off,” he said. “We burned a good deal of time on this up until now. That has to be taken into account.”
Madden, who previously worked for House Republicans, said the question is whether “the parties seize a certain level of accountability and do they learn from it.”
Successful negotiators are optimists, said Ed Brodow, a negotiation expert who described Trump’s reaction to Friday’s defeat as consistent with what the president outlined in his book, “Trump: The Art of the Deal.”
He aimed high and pushed and pushed trying to get what he wanted, Browdow said, but the best negotiators also know when to move on. And they don’t dwell on their losses.
“I don’t think he’s going to sit around worrying about it,” said Brodow, author of “Negotiation Boot Camp.” “He’s a pragmatist. He’s going to work on something else.”