The First 100 Days — Nothing Accomplished Other Than Destroying Senate Norms
The House has already adjourned for their two week Easter break and the Senate is now on its way having destroyed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees and installed Neil Gorsuch. When they return, it will have been, by my count, 94 days since Trump’s inauguration. And it’s not like Congressional Republicans have any legislation teed up and ready to go upon their return. By any measure, then, Trump’s first 100 days will be one of the least effective beginnings for any administration in modern American history and possibly one the of most ineffective when the President’s party has control of both the House and the Senate.
With virtually total control of the levers of government, Trump’s legislative accomplishments are null. In fact, the healthcare plan offered as the “repeal and replace” alternative to Obamacare proved to not only be massively unpopular, registering only 17% approval, but to also create a deep schism in the House Republican caucus. In the wake of that debacle, Trump seemingly is continuing to push for some kind of vote on healthcare in the House, but it appears even Paul Ryan understands that the gap between the House Freedom Caucus, who are simply interested in repeal, and the House moderates, who will actually have to answer to voters who lose their insurance, can not be bridged.
While maneuvering behind the scenes to try to get something out of the House on healthcare, Trump has also said that he is ready to move on to tax reform. Here again, Republicans seem to have no coherent strategy. Paul Ryan’s plan for a border adjustment tax has inflamed portions of the business community that would normally be supportive and the plan has already been labeled as dead on arrival by influential Senate Republicans.
Meanwhile, the Senate has taken most of these first 100 days to simply roll back agency rules that went into effect in the last six months of the Obama administration. Yes, those actions will be damaging to consumers, workers, and the environment but they can hardly count as legislative achievements. The only real business the Senate actually completed was to destroy the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in order to pack Neil Gorsuch on to the Court. Mitch McConnell took an axe to another democratic norm and further antagonized Democrats in the chamber, making it less likely he will be able to round up those votes to overcome the legislative filibusters Democrats will use. Unless, of course, McConnell decides to try and destroy the legislative filibuster too. While that may tempting for Senate Republicans, they might want to look at what happened when they tried to repeal Obamacare. If, in the future, Democrats need only 50 votes to pass major legislation that provides even more services to the public, the backlash when the GOP tries to repeal that legislation is likely to be just as bad as it has been for the last few weeks with Obamacare. It might be better strategy for McConnell and the GOP to leave the legislative filibuster in place. In any case, the only real accomplishment for the Senate has been to destroy another norm of governance and essentially set a new precedent that a Supreme Court Justice can only be appointed when one party controls both the Senate and the White House.
On both the healthcare and tax issues, there has been virtually no leadership coming from the White House, in the sense that the Trump administration works with Congressional leaders to craft a piece of legislation that would pass both the House and the Senate. This would be normal procedure, especially when both houses of Congress are controlled by the President’s party. But the Trump administration is so lacking in policy detail that it is always left to the leaders in Congress to craft the actual legislation and then the White House tries to mediate the disputes that eventually break out within the Republican caucus.
With no leadership from the White House, disarray within the House Republican caucus, and a polarized Senate, it has been an abysmal first 100 days for the Trump administration. And it won’t get any easier when Congress returns in two weeks, hopefully having gotten another earful from their constituents. There is no agreement on tax reform, Trump’s budget is dead on arrival, and the debt ceiling is looming. In addition, we could see insurers dropping out of the ACA exchanges for 2018, putting further pressure on the GOP to address healthcare again. With all that on their plate, it will be no wonder that the next 100 days will be as ineffective as the first.
I’ve also written about this and other issues on my personal blog at [tidalsoundings.blogspot.com]