Republicans have nearly full control of the US government. But can they even use it?
Trump is the most unpopular incoming President in at least a century. Republicans came into 2017 with a wishlist of policy goals: attacking abortion, repealing Obamacare, deregulating as many industries as possible, massive crackdowns on undocumented immigrants, stripping back LGBT rights, and the list goes on. With a solid House majority and Senate control–though not a 60-vote supermajority–there is a lot they could get (un)done. There’s just one problem: Trump.
Consider his Cabinet appointees. These should have sailed smoothly through a friendly Senate, but the fought to confirm Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was as bitter as they come, with DeVos squeaking through only with a tie-breaking vote by the Vice President. Attorney General pick Jeff Sessions did a little better, but in the past week or so Trump has seen his National Security Advisor resign, his new choice turn him down, and has had to withdraw his Labor nominee after intense scrutiny. It has clearly taken a toll on Trump, who hosted an almost indescribably bizarre press conference on Thursday.
Congressional Republicans would normally be expect to come out in support of a Republican President, but more often than not, they are staying silent. When Trump came into office, I assumed that Republicans would work with him to push through a raft of long-sought conservative policies. Instead, they don’t seem to work together much at all. Republicans can’t seem to figure out whether they should cooperate with him at all, beyond sometimes lukewarmly rubber-stamping his Cabinet appointees. It may well be that they see a final Trump meltdown coming, ending in resignation or impeachment, and don’t want to go down with the ship–and more important, don’t want a record of supporting him to tank their chances in 2018 and 2020.
In other words, what should have been a unified Republican government is instead fraught with turmoil and confusion. Republicans have backed off of outright repealing Obamacare, for now. Trump is making some tweaks to it via executive orders, but the law’s major components all remain intact (minus those chipped away by Supreme Court decisions and Congressional inaction). Trump also seems to have different ideas from his Republican colleagues, and it’s entirely possible he won’t simply endorse whatever they want, especially if it’s at odds with his own personal view of how things should be–or the view Strategic Advisor Steve Bannon wants him to have.
All this is to say that things have, so far, not been as bad as they could be. Trump’s flow of executive orders is slowing down. He’s mired in legal battles and struggling to get Cabinet nominees through. His administration is already wracked with scandals and media feeding frenzies. Republicans probably see the writing on the wall.
I can’t say they don’t deserve it. Here’s hoping they pay a heavy price in 2018 for trying to have it both ways right now.
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