Day 55 (3/15/17)—President Trump faces a challenge that may come to define the early trajectory of his administration. His (in)ability to save the Republican healthcare bill will demonstrate his ability to wield influence in Washington. Multiple Republicans say that Trump’s attempt to guide the bill, which is facing opposition on many fronts, through Congress is becoming an important test of his command of political savvy. With tougher tasks ahead, a win for Trump on such a divisive issue like healthcare would represent a rallying cry for the GOP (Grand Old Party). Republicans are relying on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in order to free up budget to deliver on the administration’s other promises, such as the border wall (to be paid for by Mexico through visa and port entry fees), a new system of tariffs to encourage companies to manufacture within the United States, and a crackdown on immigration. During the campaign, Trump promised to work with Congress to cut taxes and inject $1 trillion into national infrastructure projects to bolster bridges, roads, and highways across the nation. Thus arises the importance to the administration of successfully navigating Trump’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) through Congress.
Meanwhile, Trump has yet to address several promises that he laid out in a “Contract with the American Voter,” following Newt Gingrich’s model during the 1994 midterm elections in which he and other Republicans laid out their goals and promises to the voters. White House aides will point to Trump’s executive orders as a sign of his activity in keeping his promises, such as his travel bans in support of American security and his order to federal agencies to revise the Clean Water Rule, allowing the EPA to reel back some of the regulations put in place by the Obama administration. The AHCA represents the only legislative action taken by Trump in concert with Congress. The next few weeks “will show whether the Trump administration can use the tools of the White House to move legislation forward,” said Michael Steel, former senior aide to former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Pressure is mounting on Trump to deliver on his promises, and his navigation of the health bill may define the future of his agenda.
FBI Director James Comey is set to appear before the House Intelligence Committee next Monday to publicly testify on the Russia investigation. Members of congress on both sides of the aisle are determined to get answers to Trump’s wiretapping claim and whether or not the FBI is conducting any criminal investigations into Trump campaign aides’ potential collusion with Russia regarding the election. Both the House Intel Committee and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism have asked the Justice Department to hand over any evidence of Trump’s wiretap claim, including warrant applications or court orders that would signify a paper trail. Both panels are considering issuing subpoenas to get the answers they want. Comey’s appearance on Monday may aggravate either the President or important members of Congress, by debunking Trump’s claim or by continuing to dodge the issue.
The ultimate fate of the AHCA will definitely test Trump’s political operation skills. This is Trump’s first real test—he has not worked in concert with congress on anything else—and he is struggling. I find it a tad ironic that disgruntled voters who saw no change coming from Washington voted Trump into office, only to potentially see more stagnation should the bill not pass. It would be especially ironic for me, given that Trump has a Republican majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to work with. If he cannot deliver on his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, what else will be able to accomplish from his bold agenda?
By Henry Clarke, NYU Florence student