The Entire Trump Agenda Is at a Tipping Point–The Mess in US Senate and House

June 29, 2017

The Entire Trump Agenda Is at a Tipping Point–The Mess in US Senate and House

by Ryan Lizza*

Image result for Trump and Mitch

Ryan, Trump and McConnell and the Legislative Mess they created in the House and Senate. I label them the Dysfunctional Trio –Din Merican

Earlier this month, a senior White House official deeply involved in enacting President Trump’s agenda on Capitol Hill laid out the Administration’s ideal legislative schedule for the rest of this year.

“Between now and the August recess, we’d like them to get health care done, we’d like them to get the debt ceiling done, we’d like them to start tackling the budget,” he told me. “So when they get back from the August recess, first or second week of September, we can throw a tax proposal down and, literally, we can do taxes for September, October, and November.”

The G.O.P. has adopted a major—even radical—agenda: transforming a massive sector of the economy, slashing taxes and rewriting the entire tax code, passing a budget that would dramatically reduce the size of government, and, in the middle of all of that, raising the debt limit. They have a plan to accomplish almost all of it before the end of the year, with minimal transparency, and without relying on a single Democratic vote. But if health-care reform goes down this summer, the rest of the plan may sink with it.

For obscure parliamentary reasons, Republicans can’t move on with the rest of their wish list until they pass the health-care bill. And those prospects are not looking good. On Tuesday, Mike Lee, of Utah, became the fifth Republican senator to say that he would vote against even bringing the health-care bill up for debate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who announced, also on Tuesday, that he will delay the vote until after the July 4th recess, may yet broker a deal on health care, but if he fails to do so the legislative impact for Trump could be calamitous.

The parliamentary maneuver McConnell is using is called reconciliation. The process was created, in 1974, as a way to streamline the congressional budgeting process. It wasn’t intended to be used for major legislative changes. However, as partisan deadlock has grown, it has become an increasingly attractive legislative tool because it is protected from a filibuster in the Senate and therefore needs only fifty, rather than sixty, votes to pass. (Vice-President Mike Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote in both cases.)

Bill Clinton’s attempt at reforming health care was probably doomed the day that he decided not to use reconciliation. Obama passed his initial health-care bill through the Senate without using reconciliation, but he always kept it as a backup plan—and it turned out that he needed it. When he lost his sixty-vote majority in the Senate, Democrats used the process to pass a final package of tweaks to the bill.

This year, Republicans have been even more creative. They planned to use one reconciliation bill for health care and a separate one for the beast of tax reform. But one of the many arcane rules about the reconciliation process is that any new reconciliation bill cancels out the old one. “This is the first time anyone has tried to do this,” Stan Collender, a longtime budget expert who now works for the strategic-communications firm MSLGROUP, said. “You can only have one budget resolution in effect at a time. Their idea was to do health care and then move on to tax reform, but that strategy was based on doing health care quickly.”

If the Senate health-care bill dies and Republicans move on to tax reform, they will have an interesting choice to make: do they give up on health care and propose only a tax-reform bill? Or do they combine tax reform and health care into one monster bill, which would make passage even more daunting?

Some of these procedural issues might be overcome by a kind of nuclear option, whereby Republicans ignore or find a way to overrule the Senate parliamentarian who enforces the budget rules. But, however health care is resolved, the rest of the items on the Trump agenda consist of a series of fiendishly difficult political issues that divide Republicans. The budget, which must be resolved by October 1st, will pit congressional Republicans, who have decried the White House’s proposed budget, against Trump, who was so miffed about being ignored during the budget negotiations earlier this year that he tweeted, “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” Republicans in the House are comfortable with defaulting on the debt, and the President himself has called for a shutdown. Things could quickly grow ugly.

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DJT and his Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin-Getting the US Economy moving again?

In the middle of this drama, the White House wants to pass a comprehensive tax-reform bill. The last time Congress approved such a piece of legislation was in 1986, and it was the result of a lengthy and bipartisan process of hearings and horse-trading. So how are Republicans approaching tax reform this year? They are writing a bill in secret that they intend to pass using reconciliation. The group writing it, which calls itself the Big Six, consists of Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary; Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser; Representative Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; House Speaker Paul Ryan; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. There are no Democrats and no women involved, and there have been no hearings.

“We are all on the same page,” the senior White House official told me, referring to tax reform. “There’s going to be one tax bill and one tax bill only.”

Before a tax bill can move forward, Republicans will have to agree on health care—or abandon the issue. The health-care reconciliation package is a giant iceberg that needs to be cleared out of the way before Republicans can move forward with the rest of their agenda.

*Ryan Lizza is the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, and also an on-air contributor for CNN. Before joining the magazine, in 2007, he was a political correspondent for The New Republic, from 1998 to 2007, and, before that, a correspondent for GQ and a contributing editor at New York. He has also written for the New York TimesWashington Monthly, and The Atlantic Monthly. Since 1998, he has covered most of the country’s major political stories, including the last four Presidential campaigns, and has written many political profiles for The New Yorker, on Barack ObamaHillary ClintonJoe BidenMitt RomneyJohn McCainPaul RyanEric CantorMichele BachmannDarrell IssaPeter OrszagLarry SummersRahm Emmanuel, and John Hickenlooper, among others. His awards include the 2012 National Press Club’s Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence, for his article “The Consequentialist,” and the White House Correspondents’ Association’s Aldo Beckman Memorial Award, for a series on Obama’s Presidency and reëlection campaign. His article “Making It” was a 2009 National Magazine Award finalist, and his 2010 article “As the World Burns” received honorable mentions from the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting and the National Press Foundation Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress.

Reading List: Ryan Lizza recommends “Trump Solo,” Mark Singer’s 1997 profile of Donald Trump.

Watch: Ryan Lizza discusses campaign politics and the future of the G.O.P. on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

9 thoughts on “The Entire Trump Agenda Is at a Tipping Point–The Mess in US Senate and House

  1. LaMoy and Semper Fi,

    Reagan’s City on a Hill in reverse. The America I know has crumbled with the arrival in the White House of New Yorker DJT. The swamp in DC has gotten swampier. Under his presidency, America will lose out to Russia and China by choice. The Republicans should be embarrassed with their Trump-Pence tag team. How could American voters get it so terribly wrong. Or will I be proven in a couple of years for giving Trump as 45th POTUS a F minus grade? –Din Merican

  2. The American voters were tired of the same oh same oh be it Republican or Democrat in the White House and in the last election there was essentially no choice. Both candidates have their excess baggage and it was more evident that Hillary was so lost and did not recognize that the voters wanted change. Trump on the other hand offered change and to the simple minded hill billies and blue collared workers in the rust belt, he was singing their tune. They dont have the foresight nor knowledge that the job of POTUS is not that simple. Then there s the electoral college which handed Trump the Presidency in spite of them being better informed and more knowledgeable.

    Thus we have an idiot narcissistic arrogant bully in the White House who thinks that he can run the country through twitter and on his whim and fancy. The Republicans are so embarrassed to acknowledge that they made a mistake by endorsing Trump and now have to zip up and try to make do by giving excuse that Trump is learning. The Democrats are so disorganized and lack a powerful personality to take it forward and can only vote no but lacking the numbers to derail.

    4 years of DJT will cause the US to lose its global leadership position. The only strength is its war machine but that soon will be tested.

  3. Donald J Trump is the worst of Americans nightmares.Especially the staff in the WH.They have to kowtow to this horndog and go out to lie each and everyday.This horndog’s cabinet and WH staff have no principles and useless good for nothings.

    If these ass kissers have one cents worth,they would have quit long ago.Yes,it is a privilege to serve for a president,but the worst president in the history of the USA?

    Except for the billionaires and super rich serving in the cabinet,the rest of the WH staff will have problems finding jobs when they finally left.No employer will want to hire lying hyenas.

    Donald J trump and his pack of lying Republican hyenas healthcare plans are many times worst that Obama’s Obamacare.If like hell thunder struck and it managed to pass,Republicans are going to get swept out in 2018 midterm elections.The only ones to laugh all the way to the bank are not the Republican stooges in congress,but the likes of alleged statutory raper Donald J trump and company.

  4. But meanwhile the radical right in the USA are achieving their objectives as
    very “conservative” judges are appointed (including to the Supreme Court) and
    Trump appointees are implementing their policies e.g. De Vos in the Dept of Education and Sessions as AG.

  5. The Trump mess.First of all,we have the three amigos with three wives each.The three amigos,Trump,Rudy and Newt have all married three times and divorce twice.Of the three,Trump’s wife Marla cheated on him.And on the beach with her bodyguard,got caught by a cop after beach closing hours.

    The three stooges of Washington,Trump,Paul and Richie are pawns of the Koch brothers.Donald Trump would not have won without the money from the two brothers.Donald had no money to self finance although he boasted,because his business were over leveraged.

  6. I can’t help but notice Dato Din has inserted a tiny passage into this article calling the Trump-Ryan-McDonnell a Dysfunctional Trio. He’s so right. A graduate from GWU really knows and understands the pulse and heartbeat of Washington, D.C.

    I remember Jeb Bush, who failed miserably to become the GOP nominee, warned everyone that if Trump got elected it would be a “chaos president.” He was so right. Every day there’s a new eruption by Trump. These self-inflicted actions have made the Republican party leadership beyond anxious.

    I won’t get into all the allegations surfacing daily, but suffice it to say that “obstruction of justice” is no light offense. If proven, it’s grounds for impeachment and then conviction and removal from office. It’s now appropriate and timely to ask what will the Republican congressional leadership do and when will they do it? The two major and leading figures – Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell – have never demonstrated anything that can be deemed “profiles in courage.” Ryan and McConnell are leaders in name only. They’ve put party over country and failed to check and balance Trump into doing the right thing for the country.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan is first and foremost a party preservationist and party functionary. Just look at his political background and history. He was first elected in 1988 and is now serving his 9th term. He was elected to the House at the tender age of 28. He was selected by Mitt Romney in 2012 as his running mate. Yes, he’s ideas and strays from party dogma on occasion, but his primary mission is to make sure the party thrives and remains in the majority. Most of the time he lets a spokesman speak for him when the going gets rough. You’re not going to see anytime soon or, for that matter, any time when Ryan leads the charge against a sitting Republican president. It’s not in his political DNA. He can’t bring himself to do it. When he chooses to speak on the issue he reduces himself to platitudes. He’ll not lead. He’ll look on from the sidelines.

    Now let’s turn to the Senate. McConnell is serving in his sixth term. He was first elected in 1984. He has spent his entire political career climbing the party ladder. He was previously the Chairman of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. He had served as Majority Whip under Bill Frist and then Minority Leader and finally Majority Leader. McConnell is against any change that would disrupt the prevailing political order. Or in any way jeopardize Republican majority dominance. Moreover, one other convenient fact – his wife is Elaine Chao, Trump’s present Secretary of Transportation. He’s one more selfish reason not to antagonize Trump. The dour, un-charming, uptight, buttoned-up senator is not a troublemaker. He, just like Ryan, will let others do the dirty work when and if necessary.

    Most recently, McConnell’s misery grows as Trump self-destructs and blows up GOP healthcare bill plan. Senate Republicans had a clear plan to pass the healthcare bill by keeping Trump far away from it. That plan was blown to bits as Trump proclaimed himself heavily involved and knowledgeable on health care. The unpopular and clueless president has waded into the health care bill minefield and began to blow things up. Trump and his administration’s public comments on the health care bill have ranged from alarming ignorance to flat out lies. The only hope that Senate Republicans had for passing the bill was to keep Donald Trump out of it. With Trump sticking himself in the middle of the mess, a difficult to pass health care bill may have become an impossible task for Senate Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell.

    • Thanks, that was long ago in 1968-1970. I now monitor DC from a distance, although take occasional visits to the nation’s capital to visit my good friend former US Ambassador to Malaysia John Malott in Alexandria, Va. That makes your comments on congressional and White House politics indispensable in addition to the books, articles and commentaries I read in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Project Syndicate, and CNN.Both the DMC and Republican Party face a crisis of leadership.So America is a crisis.–Din Merican

    • Aye, America is a crisis. Almost on a daily basis, Trump says and does things that would have been condemned by both parties in the past – when there was such a thing as political courage. Even though the majority of the country believes Trump’s repeatedly unhinged and inappropriate rhetoric is hurting the country – and damaging the way the world sees the United States – it plays well with the minority of the country that strongly supports Trump. The more Trump spews inflammatory rhetoric, the more enthusiastic and riled up his base becomes, and the Republican Party needs these voters to win elections. In the era of Donald Trump there isn’t any profiles in courage in the Republican Party but hypocrisy. This cowardice may help the GOP hold onto its base by not turning off rabid Trump supporters, but it’s doing great long-term damage to America’s political system.

  7. Today, twenty moderate Republicans in the US House of Representatives warned that efforts to overhaul the federal tax code could be jeopardized by demands for including major spending cuts in a fiscal 2018 budget resolution. In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, moderates from the Tuesday Group said that including hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to mandatory programs could be “extremely problematic” for tax reform and asked for a budget delay until Senate Republicans finish their debate on healthcare legislation. They also worry that adding mandatory cuts to a reconciliation bill would create unpalatable legislation that reduces benefits for the poor while granting tax cuts to corporations and wealthy individuals – directly challenging the alt-right House Freedom Caucus who backs major spending cuts of mandatory programs including Medicaid and food stamps. Please read:

    In the Senate, Republican moderates signal to take bipartisan health care approach and truly frustrate and piss off the right-wing extremists. Looks like McConnell’s hope for getting at least 50 of the 52 GOP votes to pass the health care is an impossibility.

    Seems like the moderate Republicans have seen enough of the Trump-Ryan-McConnell Dysfunctional Trio and have had enough with the Republican right-wing extremists. Looks like the 50 members of Congressional Republican moderates of the Tuesday Group are making the move. The Tuesday Group is technically at war with the Freedom House.

    I believe the Trumpanzees are going to be very pissed off. The Trumpanzees are like the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution in China. They quote the US Constitution in distortion to destroy the Constitution, and they wave the American flag to destroy America.

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