Frac­tured Congress stalls Trump agenda

Democrats: Pres­i­dent has alien­ated them

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent Trump is string­ing to­gether some wins — from a pre­ci­sion mil­i­tary strike on the Syr­ian regime to con­fir­ma­tion of his Supreme Court pick to trash­ing reams of Obama-era reg­u­la­tions — but much of his leg­isla­tive agenda re­mains bot­tled up in Congress.

Eighty days into his pres­i­dency, Mr. Trump has been de­nied the ma­jor leg­isla­tive ac­com­plish­ments that were cor­ner­stones of his cam­paign. The wreck in Congress last month of a bill to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare has backed up other top pri­or­i­ties, in­clud­ing tax re­form and a $1 tril­lion in­fra­struc­ture pro­gram.

Still, Mr. Trump has been able to move for­ward on some key parts of his agenda with­out the help of the Repub­li­can-run Congress. In his most re­cent weekly video ad­dress, the pres­i­dent pointed to the bur­geon­ing con­fi­dence in the econ­omy and progress turn­ing back the tide of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, where the flow across the south­west bor­der dropped a stag­ger­ing 63 per­cent in March com­pared to last year.

“The con­fi­dence we are see­ing in our na­tion is about jobs and op­por­tu­nity, but it’s also about safety and se­cu­rity,” he said. “Se­cu­rity be­gins at the bor­der. As a can­di­date, I pledged to take swift and de­ci­sive ac­tion to se­cure the bor­der, and that is ex­actly what I have done.”

But there are lim­its to what a pres­i­dent can achieve with ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion alone, and Mr. Trump has been hin­dered by a frac­tured Congress.

The prob­lem isn’t the amount of leg­is­la­tion on Capi­tol Hill. Congress has tack­led a com­pa­ra­ble num­ber of bills this year com­pared to 2009, when

it was Democrats who had con­trol of the House, Se­nate and White House.

The bills that ar­rived on Pres­i­dent Obama’s desk were heftier, how­ever.

Among the early bills Mr. Obama signed were the Lilly Led­bet­ter Fair Pay Act, which bol­stered pro­tec­tion against pay dis­crim­i­na­tion, the Chil­dren’s Health In­surance Reau­tho­riza­tion Act and the $787 bil­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus pack­age known as the Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act.

The most con­se­quen­tial bills signed by Mr. Trump, by con­trast, have been the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion Tran­si­tion Au­tho­riza­tion Act, which re­stored the agency’s fo­cus on space mis­sions, and a dozen bills that used an ob­scure statute called the Con­gres­sional Re­view Act (CRA) to can­cel reg­u­la­tions im­posed by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s of­fice said it’s a mis­take to un­der­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of us­ing CRA to ad­vance Mr. Trump’s dereg­u­la­tion agenda. “Pres­i­dent Trump ran on end­ing th­ese reg­u­la­tions and jump-start­ing the econ­omy. We have fol­lowed through on that pledge,” said Ryan spokesman Doug An­dres. “Our use of CRAs is un­prece­dented. Un­til this year, Congress had only used this law once to suc­cess­fully re­peal a reg­u­la­tion.” He said the White House and Congress re­main on track to im­ple­ment an am­bi­tious agenda.

“We’ve also made sig­nif­i­cant progress on our prom­ise to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare. Oba­macare took more than two months to en­act into law, so it will take time to re­peal and re­place,” said Mr. An­dres.

The first ma­jor Oba­macare bill was in­tro­duced in the House in July 2009, and a bill didn’t pass the Se­nate un­til Christ­mas Eve that year. The ef­fort seemed to stall a month later af­ter Democrats lost their fil­i­buster-proof ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, but they found a way to re­vive their bill and passed it in March.

Now it’s the GOP that’s look­ing to re­vive its Oba­macare re­peal af­ter House Repub­li­cans’ first go-around stum­bled.

Mr. Ryan and con­ser­va­tive con­gres­sional lead­ers an­nounced tweaks late last week they hope can win over enough con­ser­va­tives with­out los­ing mod­er­ates.

Capi­tol Hill Democrats, who have re­mained united against al­most ev­ery move by Mr. Trump, blamed the lack of early leg­isla­tive tri­umphs on the par­ti­san­ship they see on the other side of the aisle.

“They’ve spent their time in the first por­tion of their hun­dred days fo­cused on ex­tremely right-wing poli­cies,” said Drew Ham­mill, deputy chief of staff for House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat.

He noted that the Lilly Lead­bet­ter bill passed in 2009 with GOP support.

The stim­u­lus spend­ing bill, how­ever, passed with no support from House Repub­li­cans and just three GOP votes in the Se­nate.

“If you know that you need Democrats to pass some­thing in Congress, which I think has been es­tab­lished at this point, you shouldn’t spend your time do­ing a bunch of ex­ec­u­tive or­ders that com­pletely alien­ate Democrats in your first hun­dred days,” said Mr. Ham­mill. “Be­cause when it’s time to come to Democrats for some­thing, you’ve spent any good will you had as a new pres­i­dent alien­at­ing peo­ple.” Mr. Trump does have an open­ing to win Demo­cratic back­ers for his $1 tril­lion plan to re­build Amer­ica’s high­ways, bridges, rail­ways and air­ports, although bi­par­ti­san support for the ef­fort fal­ters when it comes to how to pay for it.

The in­fra­struc­ture bill is still on the draw­ing board in the White House.

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