President’s agenda now on the line
Trump win puts Obama legacy in peril
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama bet his presidency on executive power, acting without Congress to implement his agenda with the understanding that his legacy rested largely on whether his successor kept his maneuvers intact.
Then Donald Trump was elected on a promise to dismantle what Obama had built.
Suddenly, the president’s signature accomplishments are in peril on climate change, immigration and foreign policy. His chief legislative triumph, the health care reform law known as Obamacare, is one that Republicans in Congress are eager to repeal and Trump has promised to replace.
“We’re going to fix health care, make it more affordable and better,” Trump said Thursday after his first meeting with Republican leaders in Congress. “... We’re going to do a real job for the public.”
Obama is scrambling to salvage his agenda with little more than a public relations strategy to help him. Aides are preparing a campaign to remind the public of what’s at stake if his regulations, executive orders and negotiated agreements are rolled back.
Not only did Trump’s victory jeopardize Obama’s chief accomplishments, it also likely ended the president’s admittedly weak opportunity to complete his presidency with a flurry of last-minute victories during a lame-duck session of Congress. Aides had hoped that if Hillary Clinton won the presidential race and Democrats made gains in Congress, the outgoing Republican majorities might agree to deals with Obama on trade, criminal justice reform and perhaps even his Supreme Court nomination eight months ago of Merrick President-elect Donald Trump meets Thursday with President Obama in the White House. Garland, which Republicans have refused to consider.
Instead, as Republicans prepare to take control of the executive and legislative branches, Obama is planning a farewell tour of the country, aides say, to send a message of unity but also to remind Americans of what they stand to lose if Republicans peel back his actions.
OnObamacare, 20 million people stand to lose health care coverage if the law were repealed. Obama’s strategy is to remind those consumers about what they stand to lose, pressing Republicans to come up with a replace- ment.
“A lot of his signature programs are going to get gutted,” predicted presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “But this idea that Obama’s suddenly losing his legacy is premature. He may lose the Affordable Care Act, which is a major part of his legacy. But the amount of things he’s been able to do over eight years will be looked upon well in history.”
Obama aides hope to take advantage of divides within the GOP about the best path forward, and Democratic allies in Congress are plotting how to fend off Republican efforts to undo Obama’s key accomplishments and to work with Trump on issues where there is some agreement.
House Minority Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for instance, has cited a “robust infrastructure jobs bill” and child care and paid family leave issues as areas of potential cooperation.
Nullifying other key Obama accomplishments might not be as easy as Trump made it sound on the campaign trail. For example, the nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump assailed as a sign that Obama is a weak