Political losses could thwart president’s policy agenda
Trump expresses confidence despite spats with lawmakers
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
President Trump is showing continued frustration with Republicans in Congress.