Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

Trump aims to achieve congressional balancing act on taxes

September 24, 2017

The Associated Press

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he wants to lure Democratic lawmakers to sign on to a Republican-crafted tax overhaul plan but negotiators must deal with the reality that any handouts to Democrats could quickly turn into turnoffs for the GOP.

The White House and tax-writing Republican leaders are expected to begin filling in some of the details this coming week on Trump’s plan to simplify the tax system, a legislative priority for the president. The White House views this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to simplify taxes and cut rates, while giving Trump a much-needed victory as the Republicans struggle to overturn the Obama health care law.

The specifics are taking shape. Trump’s efforts to draw in a few Democrats could mean “you’re going to lose a few Republicans,” said Mark Weinberger, CEO of the accounting firm EY. But he added: “He wants to get 51 votes period in the Senate … so it is possible you might lose a few Republicans and pick up a few Democrats who are in states that Trump won.”

While the plan is not finalized, Trump is already planning to promote it heavily. He will travel to Indiana on Wednesday, and aides are discussing a televised speech, according to people familiar with White House plans.

People familiar with the plan being written entirely by Republicans said the administration is considering lowering the corporate tax rate from its current 35 percent to somewhere in the low 20s. The plan probably would seek tax cuts across the board for individuals and reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three. The administration is considering whether to repeal the estate tax, long a Republican cause, according to these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations still underway.

Republican leaders had promised an overhaul that would not add to the deficit. Republicans are talking about cuts whose costs would be justified by assumptions of greater economic growth.

Lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee planned to meet Sunday night and Monday to discuss taxes, and House Republicans are set to meet privately away from the Capitol on Wednesday, according to aides familiar with the plans.

The White House initially pushed hard to overhaul taxes with only Republican support. But in recent months, people involved with tax discussions have found that Republican lawmakers — beyond a general desire to cut rates and simplify the tax system — also have their own divisions. The result is that Trump has been unable to deliver a tax overhaul with concrete details.

“There are Republicans, there are base Republicans, there are Trump Republicans, there are progressive Democrats, there are Blue Dog Democrats,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “There is no way to move one way or the other and not lose someone on the other end of the spectrum.”

Trump has bargained on other issues with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. But the tax plan has been developed in private with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, White House economic adviser Gary Cohen, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the two Republicans leading the major tax-writing committees — Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas.

Republicans will need to agree on a companion budget plan to get the tax effort off the ground. A series of fights awaits once the administration details the plan, including whether to limit or eliminate the itemized deduction for state and local taxes.

White House advisers expect Trump to rally support for the plan by visiting states with Democratic senators that he won last year, and states in Rust Belt such as Pennsylvania and Ohio that powered his victory. Critics of the emerging plan say it will take more than that to bring Democrats on board.

“Simply going to a red state with a blue senator and saying she better support my tax cut doesn’t strike me as a very powerful weapon at all when the tax cut is a nice big fat package for wealthy people that does nothing for the working class,” said Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In his early effort to build broader support for a tax plan, Trump has focused on Democrats such as Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota during trips to their home states, which both delivered major victories for Trump in the 2016 election.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in an interview that he has told Trump he’s “very receptive to reducing the corporate tax to the 25 (percent) range,” and described some of the early discussions over components of the plan as “very doable.”

But Manchin said he told the president the plan would need to be fiscally responsible. “One thing we don’t need to raise is more debt,” Manchin said.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who dined with Trump and other senators earlier this month, has urged the president to make sure the tax plan addresses the outsourcing of jobs and includes provisions supporting companies that invest in U.S. jobs and penalize those that ship jobs overseas. Vice President Mike Pence pushed Donnelly during a visit to the state Friday, saying “Sen. Donnelly, we need your help too.”

Heitkamp, a former North Dakota tax commissioner, has pointed to the complexities involved in any overhaul and said she’ll need to see more details.


Associated Press writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.


With Timing Tight for GOP’s Graham-Cassidy Health-Law Effort, Opponents Rush to Mobilize

September 21, 2017

Critics step up attacks on latest bill amid narrow window for Senate vote

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum in Washington on Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum in Washington on Wednesday. PHOTO: REYNOLD/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Opponents of a Republican plan to dismantle most of the Affordable Care Act are scrambling to ramp up a resistance campaign before a possible Senate vote next week on a bill many never expected would gain traction.

With such a narrow window, consumer and other groups are seeking to pressure specific GOP senators they see as most likely to waver. They also assert that Republicans are trying to ram through a bill outside the normal process while reneging on a promise to preserve the ACA’s consumer protections, claims the bill’s sponsors reject.

Timing is clearly a challenge for the bill’s supporters, who must cobble together votes by a Sept. 30 deadline, when a parliamentary vehicle that enables the Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority expires. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has said he plans to hold a vote next week, by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

But it also doesn’t leave much time for the bill’s opponents, who had weeks to build up resistance to previous ACA-repeal attempts, including legislation that failed in July to pass the Senate.

“This bill is complicated and far-reaching,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Interest groups don’t have a lot of time to mobilize and figure out what it means.”

Republican leaders have begun responding to the attacks on their bill to topple much of the ACA. They say it protects people with pre-existing conditions and returns control over health care to the states. They disagree with critics who say they have been secretive with the bill’s process, pointing out that they’re holding public hearings early next week on the legislation.

“Under Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson, more people will have coverage and we protect those with pre-existing conditions,” Mr. Cassidy said Wednesday on CNN, referring to the other sponsors of the bill.

The attacks seek to hit the bill’s sponsors in areas of political vulnerability.

Save My Care, a health-care advocacy group, has launched ad campaigns in Nevada, Alaska, West Virginia, Maine, Tennessee and Arizona. An ad this week targets Sen. Dean Heller (R., Nev.) for co-sponsoring a bill that lets states waive ACA protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Nevada’s Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval opposes the legislation.

“We’re pulling out all the stops. We’re putting out a lot of phone calls,” said Brad Woodhouse, campaign director at Protect Our Care, an advocacy group focused on blocking the repeal. “Calls are going into Washington and state offices.”

The proposal would let states get waivers to end the ACA prohibition on insurers charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing health conditions. That was the situation before the ACA established the restriction.

A few months ago, Mr. Cassidy spoke out in favor of protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Mr. Cassidy has said the bill would protect these consumers because it stipulates that coverage must be affordable. Critics say that definition is so vague that rates for sick people still could become prohibitively expensive.

The bill is more far-reaching in some ways than earlier GOP repeal attempts. It would end the mandate that most people have coverage or pay a penalty and the requirement that many employers provide health insurance to workers.

The proposal essentially turns over federal ACA funding—estimated at more than $1 trillion through 2024—to states, allowing them to set up their own health-care systems. It would cut federal health funds to states by more than $4 trillion through 2026, according to a report Wednesday by Avalere Health, a health-care consulting firm.

States that expanded Medicaid under the ACA would see some of the largest cuts, according to the report.

With repeal possibly within Republicans’ grasp, a bipartisan group of 10 governors on Tuesday sent Mr. McConnell a letter saying they favored a bipartisan process instead of the repeal bill.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which the bill seeks to exclude from the federal Medicaid program, held a rally outside the Capitol on Tuesday, where senators and activists took turns speaking. The group has held rallies outside the offices of Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska.) and John McCain (R., Ariz.), who are both undecided, as well as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W. Va.), who voiced concerns about previous repeal efforts.

Industry groups including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and America’s Health Insurance Plans, the major health insurers’ group, have come out against the proposal.

The repeal fight is likely to come down to a one-vote margin. If GOP leaders vote by Sept. 30, they will need 50 votes in the 100-member Senate, where they hold a 52-48 majority, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a potential tie-breaking vote. After Sept. 30, they would need 60 votes, which is unlikely given the unified Democratic opposition to GOP repeal efforts.

Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) has said he will vote no, and Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) has signaled her serious reservations, meaning the bill’s sponsors cannot lose another vote.

Republican leaders maintain their bill presents the best chance GOP lawmakers have to deliver on a yearslong pledge to repeal the ACA.

“I’m giving you the chance to do something different than Obamacare because this is not working,” Mr. Graham said of his bill Wednesday. “It’s not working in Alaska, it’s not working in South Carolina.”

The latest Republican stab at overhauling the Affordable Care Act manages to be both more timid and more sweeping than previous efforts to replace Obamacare. Known as Graham-Cassidy, it was written by a quartet of Republican senators led by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

In the timid sense, the proposal would keep much more of Obamacare’s taxes and spending in place than previous Republican plans this year. Yet Graham-Cassidy makes more sweeping changes by turning money currently used on insurance subsidies and the Medicaid expansion into block grants to states. This change would give states more flexibility to design their own health care systems.

The prospects for Graham-Cassidy remain in doubt, but the battle over whether states or the federal government should have more control over health care policy will remain no matter what happens in the coming weeks. There is a strong case for a system that takes a less Washington-centric approach to health care and turns more decisions over to the states.

Commentators often bemoan how divided the nation is, pointing to our bitter elections and the toxic nature of political discourse. But the current level of partisan and regional polarization is a natural consequence of a political system that cedes so much power to the federal government. When distant lawmakers and unelected bureaucrats are in a position to make decisions that have enormous implications for the entire nation, the stakes of any decision become much higher. This is especially true when it comes to health care policy, which has the most personal and life-altering effects on individuals and their families.

A more flexible system would give states latitude to pursue health care programs that are a better fit for their populations’ ideological sensibilities. And there are practical reasons to think of health care as a state-based issue: Every one has its own demographics, health challenges and other unique characteristics.

For instance, median household income is much higher in New Hampshire than in Arkansas; heart disease and obesity are much bigger problems in Mississippi than in Colorado; the opioid epidemic is much worse in West Virginia than in Nebraska. Relatively sparsely populated areas struggle with the closings of rural hospitals, leaving large geographic areas underserved, while urban areas have a high concentration of large hospitals, many of which struggle with overcrowding.

Some states have both major cities and vast rural areas. Some skew younger while others skew older. State-specific factors help explain why even under the centralized Obamacare, premium increases and the participation of insurers have varied widelyacross the country. It makes sense to allow states to set their priorities and direct their resources based on the characteristics of their populations.

As states come up with innovative solutions to their health care problems, it means there are 50 opportunities to experiment. States can test solutions that worked elsewhere, or steer clear of ideas that failed. This path makes more sense than having politicians and distant regulators impose one giant experiment on the entire nation that is harder to undo if it fails.

The idea of turning more power over to the states has long been advocated by conservatives, but there are compelling reasons for liberals to get behind devolving power from the federal government.

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, it left many of the details to the discretion of the Department of Health and Human Services, giving vast powers to the secretary to determine everything from fast-food menu labeling requirements to when individuals could purchase insurance. During the Obama years, the administration used its regulatory discretion — pushing and arguably exceeding the limits of the law — to prop up the president’s signature legislative accomplishment as the program ran into implementation problems.

When President Trump took office, he appointed Tom Price, a longtime foe of Obamacare during his time in Congress, to run H.H.S. In the past several months, liberals have shouted “sabotage” as they have witnessed Mr. Price take actions such as slashing Obamacare’s advertising budget, tweaking the rules on the types of plans insurers are allowed to offer and cutting in half— to six weeks — the program’s open enrollment period. Mr. Trump himself has created uncertainty over whether he will continue to authorize payments to insurers that congressional Republicans sued Mr. Obama over.

Any national health care system that assumes one party will control Washington for all eternity is doomed to fail. New Yorkers would have much less to fear about a Trump presidency if the president didn’t control agencies that set policies for the entire country.

From the perspective of somebody who wants to see genuine federalism in health care, Graham-Cassidy leaves a lot to be desired. Because it keeps many of Obamacare’s regulations on the books at the national level, it limits the amount of innovation that can occur at the state level. The fact that it keeps most of Obamacare’s taxes means that states preferring to take a more free market approach will still be paying for a big government footprint in other states. Under one scenario, for instance, Texans could be subsidizing single-payer health care in Vermont.

But the idea of giving states more control over their health care systems should survive no matter what happens with Graham-Cassidy.

Oops! — Trump Says No Deal Reached on DACA

September 14, 2017

Pelosi and Schumer said they had the outlines of an agreement to enshrine protections for ‘Dreamers’

 Image result for nancy pelosi and chuck schumer, photos

WASHINGTON—Congressional Democrats said they reached a deal with President Donald Trump to give legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, but Mr. Trump on Thursday morning said no deal had been reached.

In a series of tweets Mr. Trump said there had been no agreement but he repeated his desire to aid this group of young immigrants who are currently protected by a program that he moved to end last week.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said in a joint statement that, over dinner at the White House, they had agreed with Mr. Trump on the outlines of a deal to enshrine protections for these young immigrants into law “quickly” and to “work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”

A deal, if it materializes, would mark an extraordinary moment for lawmakers who have been unable to agree on any immigration legislation for many years. It would also mark a striking latest step on immigration for Mr. Trump. He promised a hard line against illegal migrants in last year’s campaign and last week killed off a program that gave young illegal migrants safety from deportation. At the same time, he urged Congress to find a solution for those affected before the protections expire in six months.

No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.

The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.

Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…..

…They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security

A White House statement called the dinner meeting constructive. But White House officials later disputed the Democrats’ characterization that a deal had been reached. On Wednesday evening, Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, had called the Democrats’ statement “misleading in a lot of ways.”

“We did agree to try to address DACA quickly. That doesn’t mean we reached a deal on DACA in any way,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Short said that the administration was “committed” to securing funding for Mr. Trump’s promised southwest border wall but wouldn’t “prejudge” whether that funding needed to be included in DACA legislation.

In recent days, both sides appeared to be edging toward the formulation outlined by the Democratic leaders, with Democrats agreeing to include border-security measures, and the White House signaling it would accept the immigrant protections without insisting that the legislation also include funding for the controversial southwest border-wall package.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump had courted Democrats on the subject at a bipartisan meeting, and the dinner Wednesday evening was at his invitation.

On Thursday, in one of his tweets, Mr. Trump also made a case for keeping the undocumented immigrants in the country. “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…..” he tweeted. He added: “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”

Even before the Democrats announcement of an agreement, these overtures had conservatives worried that the president would agree to a plan without strong immigration enforcement that Republicans favor. In response to those concerns, Mr. Trump said he was hoping for a bipartisan deal and planned to continue talking.

“Some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done on a bipartisan manner. And so that is why we’re going to give it a shot,” he told reporters.

Mr. Trump also raised the subject of the young immigrants at a bipartisan meeting of lawmakers that had been billed as a discussion on a tax overhaul.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat who sat next to Mr. Trump during that meeting, said in an interview afterward that Mr. Trump made “clear that he is open and eager to get bipartisan legislation” to resolve the issue of these immigrants.

Other Democrats at the meeting said Mr. Trump appeared willing to consider the border wall funding separately from the discussion of the young immigrants but suggested he may want a package to include new limits on legal immigration.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) said that Mr. Trump also urged quick action. “I don’t want to wait six months; people forget about it in six months,” Mr. Cuellar said, quoting the president.

The issue has taken on urgency since last week, when the president set an end date for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. In March, its 690,000 participants will begin to lose their work permits and protection from deportation.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) repeated his optimism that Congress can pass protections into law, saying it would “not be in our nation’s interest” to kick these people out of the country. “There’s got to be a solution to this problem,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press streamed live online.

On Wednesday, Mr. Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) met with Mrs. Pelosi and other House Democrats for what was described as a preliminary discussion on how to advance legislation addressing DACA. Afterward, people on both sides described the meeting as productive, but declined to give details.

“Discussions among the Republican conference will continue in the coming weeks,” a Ryan spokeswoman said.

Mr. Ryan has said that the protections should be paired with border-security measures, and he favors additional spending for a border wall. But he hasn’t insisted on funding for Mr. Trump’s border wall or mentioned any other contentious enforcement provisions in connection with legislation aiding the DACA immigrants.

As conditions appear ripe for a deal, some Republicans fear an agreement that is overly favorable to Democrats. Democrats have long pushed for passage of the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for many of these undocumented immigrants, also called “Dreamers.”

Conservatives say offering legal status to any illegal immigrants should come with new immigration enforcement, including measures to find and deport people living in the U.S. illegally, not just those trying to cross the border. They argue that they have significant leverage to force Democrats to accept this since DACA protections will begin to expire in March.

“Democrats have to get on board and realize they’re not going to get anything they want if they don’t help us fix the border-security issues and the interior security issues,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R., Idaho), said Tuesday.

Two Republican aides involved in the issue added that all talk of an agreement has conservatives wary, and predicted that most Republicans would reject a deal that doesn’t include substantial enforcement provisions.

Conservatives are pushing to include requiring businesses to use the E-Verify system to check whether potential employees are allowed to legally work, or measures cracking down on “sanctuary cities” that resist cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officials.

Even if Mr. Trump reaches an agreement with Democrats, it will be up to Republicans congressional leaders to bring it to the floor and sell it to their members.

Some Republicans are open to an agreement that simply pairs the Dreamer protections with border security, which could include more electronic surveillance of the border such as sensors or drones, or additional Border Patrol officers. It is unclear, though, how many votes they would bring to the floor.

Rep. Tom Cole (R., Okla.) said this week that even a Dream Act without any enforcement provisions would pass the House if it was allowed to come to the floor. But he added that “it’s a lot easier for more Republicans to vote for it” if border security measures were included.

“Clearly, we have a lot of (undocumented) folks here mainly because we don’t have adequate border security,” he said. “While you’re fixing the problem, you want to address the underlying problem.”

Corrections & Amplifications 
An earlier version of this article omitted the last name of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). (Sept. 14, 2017)

Write to Laura Meckler at and Kristina Peterson at

Appeared in the September 14, 2017, print edition as ‘Immigration Agreement Takes Shape.’


The 30 Republicans Holding Up Tax Reform

September 14, 2017

The Freedom Caucus threatens to side with Democrats and block the GOP majority.

By Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 13, 2017 6:53 p.m. ET

No matter how persuasive President Trump is, it’s unlikely he can round up enough Democrats to get 60 votes in the Senate for tax reform. That means Republicans will need to use the Senate’s reconciliation process, which avoids the filibuster, to pass their plan with 51 votes. But first the House and Senate must pass a budget resolution—and soon.

A budget resolution sets spending levels and authorizes congressional committees to prepare bills fulfilling the blueprint. With the reconciliation plan in mind, this year’s resolution would set the size of the tax reform and then instruct the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to flesh out the provisions.

Gaining agreement on a budget resolution is always tough. No more than a handful of lawmakers from the opposition party ever vote for the majority’s resolution. It helps that Republicans control both the House and Senate, but the GOP must still resolve its internal philosophical disagreements.

House Republicans tend to insist on resolutions that balance the budget within 10 years. This means resolutions that pledge to slow substantially the growth of entitlement spending. Such promises are rarely fulfilled. But putting them in the budget blueprint fuels Democratic ads claiming Republicans will throw grandma off the cliff and deprive poor children of free school lunches. Knowing this, Senate Republicans tend to want resolutions that reach balance after 10 years. Another GOP tension is between defense hawks, who want increased military spending, and deficit hawks, who want all spending restrained or cut.

Then there are nerdy but important technical arguments, starting with how the resolution’s spending baseline is calculated. Beginning with a baseline of “current law” means assuming that a tax break currently authorized for only a year or two will actually expire instead of being reauthorized. But Congress renews some tax breaks annually and probably will keep doing so through the next decade. To account for this, many in the GOP want to calculate the baseline under “current policy.”

It sounds technical, but it quickly becomes political. Democrats demand “current law” because a higher baseline would make tax reform appear to raise the deficit more than it actually would. On the other hand a lower baseline would give tax reform more wiggle room: One GOP budget expert tells me that “current policy” would provide, on paper, $450 billion that could be used to lower rates and make the tax code simpler and fairer.

Dynamic scoring is another geeky fight. A tax reform that generates economic growth will offset some of the government revenue lost from cutting rates. Republicans want their bill evaluated with dynamic scoring because it takes this effect into account and makes reform more attractive. Democrats oppose it for the same reason.

Still, given time and leadership—both on Capitol Hill and from the White House—Republicans could cobble together a budget resolution setting up a strong tax reform, which in turn would juice the economy and redeem the GOP in the midterms.

The biggest obstacle is the House Freedom Caucus. This group of just over 30 Republican congressmen has already slowed up the process by threatening to vote with Democrats against the GOP budget resolution unless they can see and approve, in advance, every major provision of the tax-reform bill. The Freedom Caucus tried in late July to block the House Budget Committee’s passage of a resolution unless the border-adjustment tax was taken off the table—which it then was. Now the Freedom Caucus’s members say they’ll flake on the budget resolution if tax reform includes full, immediate expensing of business investment. But if that’s agreed to, they’ll have more demands.

These lawmakers say they want Congress to operate in “regular order,” with committees grinding away to write legislation instead of leadership handing it down. This is hypocritical bunk. What they want is for their caucus to dictate the details of tax bills to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Republican majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill. Their approach is to make demands while threatening to join Nancy Pelosi in opposing the budget resolution unless they get their way.

If the Freedom Caucus acts on its threat, the budget resolution could be voted down, making tax reform impossible. No doubt, following their M.O., the group’s members would then blame the GOP leadership. Even if the resolution passes, the Freedom Caucus’s shenanigans may delay tax reform until 2018. These lawmakers are demonstrating once again that the freedom they most prize is freedom from the responsibility of governing.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Appeared in the September 14, 2017, print edition.

Donald Trump stabbed his party in the back. It might just pay off

September 11, 2017


Americans are fed up with political gridlock. If President Trump continues to makes deals with Democrats, the rewards would be high – but there are risks

The mainstream, “establishment” Republican leadership made a cynical calculation to tolerate Donald Trump’s dangerous faults, believing they could use him to rubber-stamp their long-sought conservative legislative agenda. They made a bargain with a con-man, and now he has betrayed them.

His deal last week with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi on debt limits and disaster spending is a huge political betrayal. But make no mistake: for Trump, it’s good politics.

Americans are fed up with gridlock and dysfunction in the Washington DC “swamp,” and they blame Republicans as much as Democrats. Furthermore, the legislation which might pass by making deals with Democrats polls well across the political spectrum.

The White House has even hinted at much broader cooperation on issues that are anathema to mainline conservatives – legislation to remedy the Daca dilemmarepealing the debt limit, which regularly puts us in danger of default, disaster aid for hurricane victims. There are rumors of some cooperation on tax reform (which give Democrats real leverage on tax breaks for billionaires.) And although nobody will admit it publicly, there is even whispered talk about fixing the problems with Obamacare.

Meanwhile, back in the “swamp”, the establishment Republican leadership, hamstrung by their own caucus’ fractious fringe, The Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee, cannot deliver on any of this, even if they wanted to. But Trump’s loyal base wants action.

Voters are angry at Congress, and most polling reveals that even Republican base voters support a much more progressive agenda than the party orthodoxy allows. (See herehere and here.) This empowers Trump to unhitch himself from people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and other establishment Republican party leaders and venture forth on his own, making deals across the aisle, catering to his base and building a cult of personality broader and more powerful than the Republican party brand.

However frightening the prospect of “Dear Leader” Trump might be, if he can find enough common ground with Democrats and Republican moderates, we might just see a breakthrough on a whole host of important legislation.

If government actually started to function again, it might ease voters’ frustration levels and lower hyper-partisan political temperatures across the spectrum. All things being equal, that’s all to the good. But all things are not equal.

Trump’s calculation ignores the one truly existential threat he faces: Russia. Trump craves adulation – praise to feed his outsized ego – and to get it he’s happy to betray friend and foe alike. But he also desperately needs the partisan protection of Congressional Republicans to shield him from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, which is gathering steam every day.

So far, Republicans in Congress have been doing just that. Despite the fact that most of them either openly dislike, distrust or disdain Trump, they have been careful to support their fellow Republican in the White House. But now he has stung them with the worst wound of all: betraying his own party. If he keeps it up, all bets are off.

There was already a constant undercurrent of murmuring among Republicans that they would be better off with Pence. Now that Trump has monumentally pissed them off, there’s no reason to pretend anymore. If he keeps siding with Democrats over his own party, Mueller would be doing them a favor.

In the short run, Trump’s gambit may be popular with voters, and if we’re lucky, it might even do some real bi-partisan good. But when time rolls around for Congress to judge “high crimes and misdemeanors,” just watch the Republicans abandon him.

  • Joe McLean is president of the Crockett Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank


We may be witnessing a turning point in the Trump presidency

September 10, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person

By Michael Goodwin
New York Post

Keep these numbers in mind: 316 to 90 and 80 to 17. They were the lopsided votes in the House and Senate in support of the deal President Trump made with Democratic leaders on storm aid, the debt limit and government funding.

Remarkably, all the no voters were Republicans.

The numbers shout that we are witnessing a potential turning point in the Trump presidency, one that could further shake up Washington and rattle the calcified political parties.

Frustrated by the failure of GOP majorities in both chambers to pass his agenda, Trump followed through on threats to work with Democrats.

Signs suggest it was not a one-off deal, as the president already is discussing other topics with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma helped spark his decision. Trump was clear that, especially on storm relief, he wanted fast, bipartisan action that reflected the way ordinary Americans were helping each other, especially in hard-hit Houston. With Irma aiming at Florida and the southeast, the president recognized that the public would have rightly viewed political squabbling during national emergencies as an infuriating failure.

Still, the circumstances didn’t stop all the GOP grumbling, with some Republicans astonished that a president from their party had accepted Dems’ terms on the debt limit to get a quick deal. Not surprisingly, Trump was hardly apologetic, firing back on Twitter: “Republicans, sorry, but I’ve been hearing about Repeal & Replace for 7 years, didn’t happen!” — a reference to the failure to overturn ObamaCare.

He also issued a warning on tax reform, tweeting: “Republicans must start the Tax Reform/Tax Cut legislation ASAP. Don’t wait until the end of September. Needed now more than ever. Hurry!”

The developments show the president shedding the party straitjacket and being true to his disrupter candidacy. If he continues and is successful, he could create a new coalition that includes revolving members of both parties, depending on the issue.

That’s an ambitious scenario, given the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington and the cultural and political chasms across the country. But at least the president is proving in the short term that it is possible to get things done — and get them done quickly, a point he emphasized by signing the legislative package as soon as it reached his desk.

Naturally, the prospect of a bipartisan approach alarms both ends of the political spectrum, with leftists angry that Schumer and Pelosi dared to even talk to Trump, let alone make a deal. That attitude is both a cause and effect of the gridlock that has gripped the capital for the better part of two decades and turned compromise into an insult.

Yet beyond the professional activists, ideologues and consultants, much of America yearns for more government cooperation and less combat.

Like children watching their parents fight, most voters just want a productive peace, not an endless battle for ­total victory that yields nothing of common value.

Above all, they want a government that works for them, not one fixated on partisan scorekeeping and ideological litmus tests.

But it would be Pollyannaish to think that gridlock is just a big misunderstanding that can be resolved at a beer summit. There are legitimate differences between the parties’ reigning philosophies, and most major issues do not lend themselves to simply splitting the difference.

Debts and deficits, for example, can’t be resolved without goring somebody’s ox, and lawmakers are elected on the promise to make sure their backers are spared the bloodletting.

Tax reform is another issue that won’t go quietly. There’s a reason why there hasn’t been an overhaul of the revenue system since 1986.

Then there is the fact that gridlock offers advantages to incumbents. It allows them to raise money and hold onto their jobs by pledging purity, no small matter when everything from gerrymandering to technology means most pols are threatened more by primary opponents than by general elections.

But the big picture is that most Americans feel government in general and Washington especially has little concern for their lives and problems.

The tiresome duels of rehearsed talking points that offer no possibility of compromise reflect a broken model of politics.

Indeed, Trump’s promise to change Washington was a key ingredient in his victory, and he may be uniquely positioned to carve out a new model. Throughout his business life, he’s been on both sides of big issues, and comes to the presidency with less of a fixed political core than anyone in ­recent memory.

That’s made him understandingly suspect to many conservatives and his inexperience has been compounded by mistakes, but that outsider, pragmatic perspective can now work in his favor. If he can find both common ground and real solutions, we might look back one day and see a more bipartisan approach to governing as the one silver lining of the weather calamities of 2017.

Liberals’ ‘supreme’ smugness

Since labels are everything, a friend offers a new one: liberal supremacists.

It fits those who demand safe spaces and want to erase history. They’re the ones whose argument starts and ends with “shut up.”

Take Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who revealed herself to be a liberal supremacist through badgering insults to Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump nominee to a federal appeals court. A law professor at Notre Dame, Barrett’s sin is to be too much of a devout Roman Catholic for Feinstein’s refined taste.

“Whatever religion is, it has its own dogma,” the California Democrat declared. “The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you….”

Abortion was the topic, and critics were quick to accuse Feinstein and other Dems who joined her chorus, of declaring that “No Catholics need apply” and setting an illegal religious test for public office. Bet they wouldn’t do that to a Muslim.

Then again, maybe they would because liberal supremacists have their own dogma. They believe they are smarter and better than everybody else.

Republican agenda threatened by Trump-McConnell feud

August 24, 2017

Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, John Cornyn


The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump can’t enact his agenda without Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell may not have a majority to lead without Trump’s help. It’s simple, and still so complicated.

The strangest bedfellows in Washington are locked in an increasingly public and personal feud that defies conventional wisdom. The escalating tension between the two men is threatening the GOP’s re-election prospects and its ability to govern. It has erupted at a high-stakes moment for the Republican Party, which is facing the prospect of a government shutdown — and the possibility it may fail to enact any major legislation during its first year in complete control of Washington.

The dispute is a reminder of the unconventional politics that have gripped the GOP in the Trump era. While Trump and McConnell ostensibly share the same philosophy, legislative agenda, voters and political opponents, they increasingly act more like adversaries than allies — a reminder of just how divisive the president remains within his own party.

“He’s now actively attacking people who can help his agenda,” veteran Republican operative Doug Heye said of Trump, who has mobilized his avid supporters against GOP senators since the party’s embarrassing failure to overhaul the nation’s health care system. “It seems to be really a one-man spiral to the bottom.”

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are locked in an increasingly public and personal feud that threatens to derail the GOP’s re-election prospects and its ability to govern. (Aug. 23)

Divisions have deepened in recent weeks.

McConnell, like other leading Republicans, is particularly upset by Trump’s persistent attacks against vulnerable Republican senators who need his help, according to a person familiar with the Kentucky Republican’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private conversations. The person said McConnell questions whether Trump is capable of righting his struggling presidency.

The concerns were exacerbated by Trump’s recent description of some participants in a white supremacist rally as “very fine people,” remarks that were broadly condemned by Republicans and Democrats.

The intra-party feuding threatens nearly all of Trump’s priorities, including his near-daily campaign trail pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

While Trump threatened Tuesday to force a federal shutdown unless Congress provides funds for the massive project, many GOP lawmakers, especially moderates, lack his passion for the proposal. They may be harder to win over given the current rancorous atmosphere.

Republicans who feel wounded by Trump also could be less likely to defend him amid investigations into his campaign’s ties to Russia. And it could complicate the task of rallying Republicans around complicated tax legislation, where lawmakers can have divergent priorities.

“In politics, it’s a mistake to personalize things, particularly if it’s a member of your own team,” veteran Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said Wednesday. “The reality is you’re going to need them down the road.”

Trump and McConnell “remain united on many shared priorities” and they and other top officials will hold “previously scheduled meetings” after Congress returns from its August recess, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday in a statement. She said their goals include middle-class tax cuts, building the border wall and strengthening the military.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation,” McConnell said in his own statement.

Such talks are unlikely to yield a close personal relationship between the two leaders.

At 75 years old, McConnell is just four years older than Trump. But he’s spent decades in Washington compared with Trump’s seven months. And stylistically and substantively, they are worlds apart.

McConnell, a Kentuckian, is guarded and gentlemanly, while Trump flashes a New Yorker’s brash, bombastic impertinence.

McConnell is an unrelenting GOP loyalist who’s mastered Senate rules and the legislative process, while Trump regularly bashes Republicans and has limited knowledge of congressional procedure. McConnell often seems to think several steps ahead of others, while Trump bounces from one subject to another with little clear strategic purpose.

The most perplexing of Trump’s strategies has been the attacks on sitting Republican senators when his party holds control of the Senate by a narrow margin. Without his support, the GOP stands a chance — if somewhat unlikely — of losing its Senate majority.

Last week, Trump encouraged a former Arizona state senator to challenge Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in a Republican primary election. Meanwhile, a super PAC allied with Trump launched attack ads against Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who is facing a primary challenge.

On Tuesday, Trump said his coy refusal to mention Flake’s name at an Arizona rally showed “very presidential” restraint. He abandoned the restraint by Wednesday morning, tweeting that he’s “not a fan of” Flake, whom he called “weak on crime & border.”

Publicly and privately, Republicans tasked with preserving the GOP’s House and Senate majorities next year are outraged.

Some party officials, Heye said, are asking themselves a difficult question: “Is it the Republican president or the Republican Senate I want to protect and work for?”

The divisions are “unprecedented,” said Republican pollster Chris Wilson.

Wilson said he thought the party could survive Trump’s political struggles and weak polling numbers in 2018, in part because so few races are being fought in competitive terrain. Democrats seeking the House majority have limited opportunities to pick up new seats given the way many congressional districts have been redrawn by Republican-led state legislatures. And Republicans expect gains among 10 states carried by Trump where Democrats currently serve.

But Wilson noted the division between Trump and his party is so clear, many voters don’t necessarily link the two.

“He does his own job of separating himself from the Republican brand,” Wilson said.

But it would be “catastrophic,” he said, if Trump and the Republican-led Congress fail to enact meaningful legislation now that they have total control of Washington.


Trump’s Border-Wall Pledge Complicates GOP Efforts to Avoid Government Shutdown

August 24, 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan says, ‘I don’t think anyone’s interested in having a shutdown’

Aug. 23, 2017 3:23 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s threat to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t approve funding for a wall along the Mexico border raised alarm among some GOP lawmakers, injecting new volatility into an already uncertain political climate this fall.

Lawmakers returning to Washington in early September have a dozen days with both the House and Senate in session before the government’s current funding expires on Oct. 1….

Trump Widens Rift With Congress as Critical Showdowns Loom

WASHINGTON — President Trump has widened an extraordinary rift with his own party, as he threatened a government shutdown over his long-promised border wall and attacked key lawmakers whose votes he needs heading into a crucial legislative period.

The escalating tensions between the Republican president and the Republican Congress endanger delicate negotiations in the coming weeks to overhaul the tax system, keep the government running and avoid a costly default on the country’s debt. They are the clearest signs to date that the uncomfortable alliance between Mr. Trump, who won the presidency promising to “drain the swamp,” and Republican lawmakers who hoped to enact long-stalled conservative priorities, has begun to fray.

In a challenge to Republicans late Tuesday, Mr. Trump threatened to shut down the government in a matter of weeks if Congress did not fund the wall on the southern border that was a signature promise of his campaign for the White House.

“If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Mr. Trump told a raucous rally in Phoenix as his supporters chanted, “Build that wall!”

“The American people voted for immigration control — that’s one of the reasons I’m here,” he added. “One way or the other, we’re going to get that wall.”

On Wednesday, he followed up on the threat by attacking Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican who has said he is skeptical of building a border wall between the United States and Mexico unless, as Mr. Trump promised, Mexico pays for it. Mr. Flake is one of two Republican senators up for re-election next year in a swing state, and the president has put his finger on the scale toward a primary challenger, Kelli Ward.

“Not a fan of Jeff Flake,” Mr. Trump said in a Twitter post. “Weak on crime & border!”

Read the rest:

Trump Tries to Recharge His Base in Arizona Rally

August 23, 2017

President addresses supporters in his first rally after uproar over the white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va.

President Donald Trump at the rally in Phoenix.
President Donald Trump at the rally in Phoenix. PHOTO: JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

Updated Aug. 23, 2017 1:28 a.m. ET

PHOENIX—President Donald Trump, in his first rally after the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month, attacked the news media and his fellow Republicans who were critical of his response to the protest.

In an address of more than an hour, Mr. Trump accused the news media of “fomenting divisions” and attacked his GOP colleagues for failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He also urged supporters to press lawmakers on the overhaul of the tax code.

Mr. Trump’s remarks about the Charlottesville violence—which initially oscillated between condemning the white supremacists and saying that “both sides” were to blame—were criticized by lawmakers, business leaders and civil-rights groups. The White House had sought to end those defections on Monday with a somber statement that unequivocally rejected bigotry and racism.

At the rally, Mr. Trump issued a forceful condemnation of “the thugs” who perpetrate hatred and violence.

“What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America,” he said.

But Mr. Trump also reiterated his previous criticism of efforts to remove Confederate monuments, including a statue of Civil War general Robert E. Lee, which sparked the demonstration in Charlottesville.

“They are trying to take away our history and our heritage,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday of the news media.

The rally was the latest example of the White House’s struggle to control its narrative. The White House on Tuesday had sought to highlight the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration enforcement policy with the president’s tour of a border protection facility in Yuma, Ariz

“We’re finally defending our own borders,” Mr. Trump said later in the rally Tuesday.

President Donald Trump toured a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Yuma, Ariz., on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump toured a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Yuma, Ariz., on Tuesday.PHOTO: JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

He also threatened to shut down the government to secure funding for a wall on the southwest border.

Ahead of the rally, protesters denounced the president as supporters queued to enter the arena in downtown Phoenix, where a heavy police presence reflected local officials’ concern about the chance of violence. Supporters of the president chanted “Build that wall” in the direction of a Trump critic waving an American flag, who shook his finger and repeatedly responded, “With your tax money.”

Some of his loudest cheers of the night came when he praised former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty last month of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s order to stop conducting immigration patrols in the state. Mr. Trump has hinted in recent weeks that he is considering pardoning Mr. Arpaio, but didn’t do so on Tuesday evening.

“I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine,” Mr. Trump said of the former sheriff.

Mr. Trump sought the support of his crowd to move his agenda. While he largely refrained from naming any Republicans, he pointed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s failure by one vote to pass a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican who cast one of the fatal votes on the repeal bill.

“One vote. Speak to your senator, please,” the president said before a boisterous crowd.

What started as largely peaceful protests turned raucous following the conclusion of Mr. Trump’s remarks, as Phoenix police deployed tear gas, pepper balls and loud flash bangs to disband the crowds.

Protesters dispersed, coughing and with burning eyes. Some Trump supporters exiting the convention center appeared largely unaware of the scene unfolding on the street. Others stopped from a sky bridge to take pictures of the tear gas billowing on Monroe Street as they exited the rally.

Sgt. Jonathan W. Howard, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department, said there had been “one or two arrests” by around 10 p.m. local time. “A small amount of the crowd” was still in the street, he said, adding that police were “still working to disburse them.”

Protesters after Phoenix police used tear gas outside the Phoenix Convention Center.
Protesters after Phoenix police used tear gas outside the Phoenix Convention Center. PHOTO: MATT YORK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

There were no significant injuries, he said.

Mr. Trump arrived in town as he is feuding with Jeff Flake, Arizona’s junior senator who has been critical of the president’s trade and border-wall plans and decried his Charlottesville remarks. Mr. Trump in turn has called Mr. Flake, one of the Republican Party’s most vulnerable incumbents in 2018, “toxic” and “weak on borders.”

In a tweet last week, Mr. Trump praised one of Mr. Flake’s primary challengers, Kelli Ward. “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake,” he wrote.

Mr. Trump on Tuesday didn’t mention Mr. Flake by name, but alluded to him, saying: “Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who is weak on borders, weak on crime.” He added: “I haven’t mentioned any names, so now everybody’s happy.”

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at, Ted Mann at and Ian Lovett at

Appeared in the August 23, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Seeks to Recharge His Base.’


Trump’s neo-Nazi rally comments thrust GOP doubts into open — “A current feeling of deep frustration and despair.”

August 21, 2017

Donald Trump

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s racially fraught comments about a deadly neo-Nazi rally have thrust into the open some Republicans’ deeply held doubts about his competency and temperament, in an extraordinary public airing of worries and grievances about a sitting president by his own party.

Behind the high-profile denunciations voiced this week by GOP senators once considered Trump allies, scores of other, influential Republicans began to express grave concerns about the state of the Trump presidency. In interviews with Associated Press reporters across nine states, 25 Republican politicians, party officials, advisers and donors expressed worries about whether Trump has the self-discipline and capability to govern successfully.

 Image may contain: 2 people, crowd and outdoor

White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the “alt-right” clash with counter-protesters as they enter Lee Park during the “Unite the Right” rally, Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader from Virginia, said Republicans signaled this week that Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville protests was “beyond just a distraction.”

“It was a turning point in terms of Republicans being able to say, we’re not even going to get close to that,” Cantor said.

A car slammed into a group of counterprotesters after a rally by white nationalists on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. killing at least one and injuring at least 19. Credit Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress, via Associated Press

Chip Lake, a Georgia-based GOP operative who did not vote for Trump in the general election, raised the prospect of the president leaving office before his term is up.

“It’s impossible to see a scenario under which this is sustainable under a four-year period,” Lake said.

Trump’s handling of the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, has shaken his presidency unlike any of the other self-created crises that have rattled the White House during his seven months in office. Business leaders have bolted from White House councils, wary of being associated with the president. Military leaders distanced themselves from Trump’s assertion that “both sides” — the white supremacists and the counter-protesters — were to blame for the violence that left one protester dead. And some members of Trump’s own staff were outraged by his combative assertion that there were “very fine people” among those marching with the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and KKK members.

Importantly, the Republicans interviewed did not line up behind some course of action or an organized break with the president. Some expressed hope the recent shakeup of White House advisers might help Trump get back in control of his message and the GOP agenda.

Still, the blistering and blunt statements from some Republicans have marked a new phase. Until now, the party has largely kept its most troubling doubts about Trump to whispered, private conversations, fearful of alienating the president’s loyal supporters and upending long-sought GOP policy goals.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a foreign policy ally of the Trump White House, delivered the sharpest criticism of Trump, declaring that the president “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to” in dealing with crises.

Bob Corker

Corker’s comments were echoed in the interviews with two dozen Republican officials after Trump expressed his views in Tuesday’s press conference. More than half spoke on the record, while the others insisted on anonymity in order to speak candidly about the man who leads their party and remains popular with the majority of GOP voters.

A handful defended Trump without reservation. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, an early supporter of the president, said he “proudly” stands with Trump and said he was succeeding despite a “constant barrage of negative attacks from the left.”

But others said recent events had shifted the dynamic between the president and his party.

“I was never one that was convinced that the president had the character to lead this nation, but I was certainly willing to stand by the president on critical issues once he was elected,” said Clarence Mingo, a Republican state treasurer candidate in Ohio. “Now, even where good conservative policies are concerned, that progress is all negated because of his inability to say and do the right things on fundamental issues.”

In Kentucky, Republican state senator Whitney Westerfield called Trump’s comments after the Charlottesville protests “more than a gaffe.”

“I’m concerned he seems to firmly believe in what he’s saying about it,” Westerfield said.

 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (pictured) has avoided criticizing Trump publicly, but aides say the Kentucky lawmaker is privately furious with the President

 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (pictured) has avoided criticizing Trump publicly, but aides say the Kentucky lawmaker is privately furious with the President

Trump has survived criticism from establishment Republicans before, most notably when GOP lawmakers across the country distanced themselves from him in the final weeks of the campaign following the release of a video in which the former reality television star is heard making predatory sexual comments about women. Many of those same lawmakers ultimately voted for Trump and rallied around his presidency after his stunning victory.

GOP efforts to align with Trump have largely been driven by political realities. The president still commands loyalty among his core supporters, though some recent polls have suggested a slight weakening there. And while his style is often controversial, many of his statements are often in line with those voters’ beliefs, including his support after Charlottesville for protecting Confederate monuments.

Brian Westrate, a small business owner in western Wisconsin who is also chairman of the 3rd Congressional District Republican Party, said Trump supporters long ago decided to embrace the unconventional nature of his presidency.

“I don’t think that anything has fundamentally changed between now and when the election was,” he said. “The president remains an ill-artful, ill-timed speaker who uses Twitter too often. That’s not new. … The president is still the same guy and the left is still the same left.”

Some White House officials do privately worry about slippage in Trump’s support from congressional Republicans, particularly in the Senate. GOP senators couldn’t cobble together the 50 votes needed to pass a health care overhaul and that same math could continue to be a problem in the fall, as Republicans work on reforming the tax code, which is realistically the party’s last opportunity to pass major legislation in 2017.

Tom Davis, a Republican state senator representing a coastal South Carolina district, said that when Trump can move beyond the crisis of the moment, he articulates policies that could help the country’s economic situation. But Davis said Trump is also part of the reason not much progress has been made.

“To his discredit, he’s been maddeningly inconsistent in advancing those policies, which is part of the reason so little has been accomplished in our nation’s capital these past six months,” Davis said.

Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican strategist who most recently tried to help Jeb Bush win the 2016 GOP presidential primary, said the early optimism some Republicans felt about their ability to leverage Trump’s presidency has all but evaporated in the days following the Charlottesville protests.

“Most party regulars have gone from an initial feeling of guarded optimism that Trump would be able to stumble along while Mitch (McConnell) and (Paul) Ryan do the big lifting and pass our Republican agenda to a current feeling of deep frustration and despair,” Murphy said.


Barrow reported from Atlanta. AP writers Julie Bykowicz in Washington, Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, and Adam Beam in Frankfort, Kentucky, contributed to this report.


Follow Julie Pace at and Bill Barrow at