Po­lit­i­cal losses could thwart pres­i­dent’s pol­icy agenda

Trump ex­presses con­fi­dence de­spite spats with law­mak­ers

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - David Jack­son NEWS ANAL­Y­SIS

Pre­siWASHINGTON dent Trump is on some­thing of a los­ing streak, and the Repub­li­can Party may be fol­low­ing suit.

Af­ter a de­feat on health care and in an Alabama Repub­li­can pri­mary race this week, Trump’s po­lit­i­cal stock is fall­ing — and his party is di­vid­ing in ways that could cost the House and Se­nate ma­jori­ties that are es­sen­tial to the pres­i­dent’s leg­isla­tive hopes.

“I don’t see im­me­di­ate prob­lems,” said Jen­nifer Duffy, a se­nior ed­i­tor with The Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port. “I see the po­ten­tial for long-term strug­gles.”

Trump in­vested heavy po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal by cam­paign­ing for Luther Strange in Tues­day’s Repub­li­can runoff to fill the Se­nate seat va­cated by Jeff Ses­sions, who was ap­pointed at­tor­ney gen­eral. Yet the in­terim se­na­tor’s loss to an­tiRepub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment can­di­date Roy Moore saps some of Trump’s strength when it comes to fu­ture po­lit­i­cal bat­tles on and off Capi­tol Hill.

The Strange loss on Tues­day also came just hours af­ter Se­nate Repub­li­cans an­nounced they could not wran­gle enough GOP votes to move for­ward with an ef­fort to re­peal and re­place Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care law.

So by the time Trump left for In­di­anapo­lis to un­veil a tax plan he wants Congress to pass by the end of the year, the pres­i­dent was seek­ing to re­vive his for­tunes.

Dur­ing his tax speech, the pres­i­dent ex­pressed his frus­tra­tions over the fail­ure of the lat­est Repub­li­can at­tempt to re­peal and re­place the Af­ford­able Care Act, say­ing the prob­lem was with “a cou­ple of peo­ple” he de­clined to iden­tify. He made clear he ex­pects leg­isla­tive wins ahead of next year’s Novem­ber con­gres­sional elec­tions, in­clud­ing health care — and even ex­pressed sur­prise that a bill wasn’t passed on his first day in of­fice.

“I was hop­ing this would be put on my desk right af­ter we won the elec­tion, and I’d come in and sign. But it didn’t work that way,” he said.

Ear­lier, at the White House, Trump even pledged to start ne­go­ti­at­ing with Democrats to see if there could be a bi­par­ti­san com­pro­mise on health care. He also dis­missed any con­cerns about his up­com­ing pol­icy agenda — and said he could work with Moore.

Yet his breezy con­fi­dence was in stark con­trast to his re­marks just last week, when the pres­i­dent wor­ried about what a loss in Ala- bama might do to him po­lit­i­cally.

Dur­ing a rally for Strange last Fri­day — the same event at which he launched his at­tack on NFL play­ers for kneel­ing be­fore the na­tional an­them — Trump told sup­port­ers that “I’m tak­ing a big risk be­cause if Luther doesn’t make it they’re go­ing to go af­ter me.”

And as Moore rolled to vic­tory on Tues­day night, Trump deleted his past en­dorse­ments of Strange from his Twit­ter ac­count. In the hours since, there have been news re­ports quot­ing anony­mous al­lies of Trump snip­ing at other Repub­li­cans over the Strange loss, par­tic­u­larly Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., who had asked the pres­i­dent to en­dorse the in­terim se­na­tor.

Trump told re­porters on Wed­nes­day he has “con­fi­dence” in McCon­nell.

Yet through­out the health care de­bate, Trump has crit­i­cized McCon­nell and other Repub­li­cans for fail­ing to lever­age their Se­nate ma­jor­ity to pass an Oba­macare al­ter­na­tive. The pres­i­dent has also clashed with so-called es­tab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans such as McCon­nell over trade and so­cial is­sues.

Trump and Repub­li­cans, Duffy said, have a rocky road ahead — now that there’s “this wedge he (Trump) has been suc­cess­fully driv­ing be­tween con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and his base.”

Repub­li­cans will be vul­ner­a­ble if other in­cum­bents opt out of run­ning in 2018 or are de­feated in pri­maries.

Some GOP mem­bers fear that some anti-es­tab­lish­ment can­di­dates whose po­si­tions em­u­late Trump’s may be too con­ser­va­tive to win a gen­eral elec­tion.

“I was hop­ing this would be put on my desk right af­ter we won the elec­tion. But it didn’t work that way.” Pres­i­dent Trump on a hoped-for health care bill

EVAN VUCCI, AP

Pres­i­dent Trump is show­ing con­tin­ued frus­tra­tion with Repub­li­cans in Congress.

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