Government & Politics

The GOP's Agenda Is at Risk

All the distractions thrown in by the Leftmedia and abetted by Trump are putting real reform on the back-burner.

Todd Johnson · May 30, 2017

As President Donald Trump and his coterie landed at Andrews Air Force Base late Saturday night they found themselves arriving back to a country that is seemingly more divided than when it left. According to Real Clear Politics, the average popularity numbers for Trump have been dropping precipitously since the beginning of May and they show no sign of abatement. The May numbers continue a trend of polling that show Trump hasn’t had an increase in popularity since the first week in March.

While Trump and his supporters will eschew any polling numbers — no matter who commissions them — there is a much more concerning topic for him and the Republican Party to face in the near term. That topic is the ongoing FBI investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and the search for potential collusion between Trump and his associates. This inquiry, a multi-faceted probe being overseen by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, is expected to last for months and many Republican senators and congressman are becoming more and more concerned that the process will not only hamper the GOP’s ability to push through any substantial legislation but adversely affect next year’s congressional elections.

It’s undeniable that the specter of the Russian investigation will be a looming presence over Capitol Hill for the foreseeable future. The media’s ongoing war with Trump ensures that any new development in the probe will be front page news. The Memorial Day weekend news cycle is the latest example of this dynamic. Most of the coverage out of Washington during the holiday time period was focused on Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and his communications with Russian businessman and government officials. While any review of these interactions may yield no criminal activity, the fact is the reporting of these exchanges forces the White House, and GOP members, to divert their attention away from creating momentum for key legislation.

At the beginning 2017 Republican legislators were touting their big plans to pass significant laws during the course of this year. Unfortunately, their plans haven’t come to fruition thus far and with only 31 more days until the August recess, they’re finding themselves running out of time to accomplish their goals. Ever since the House Republican caucus' difficulties in trying to repeal the ridiculously named “Affordable” Care Act, the party has had major challenges in developing a plan of action for the rest of this year.

As it currently stands, the Republican Party will have to focus in the near term on passing rudimentary legislation like passing a budget, raising the debt limit, and avoiding a government shutdown. While these things are important, they aren’t the things that most GOP and independent voters were thinking about when they voted Republican in the last election.

Politics is all about expectation management and the voters who pulled the lever for the Republican candidate were promised a repeal of ObamaCare, as well as tax and entitlement reform, and many other things. Since the new Congress was seated, only one of those topics has been addressed and it’s conventional wisdom that the House bill on ObamaCare was dead on arrival to the Senate. While President Trump has made limited progress on fulfilling some of his campaign promises, Republicans in DC find themselves in real danger of not getting any substantial legislation passed before the end of the calendar year and the Russian inquiry will only exacerbate this troubling situation.

The Republican Party leadership, primarily Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have a choice to make in the next few weeks. They can either allow their members to fall prey to the whims of the media, who will continue to push the Russian investigation narrative, or they can shepherd their members to pass meaningful changes that will positively impact the lives of their constituents. The stakes couldn’t be any higher for the GOP and a failure to deliver not only opens the door to a Democrat takeover of both houses in 2018 but the potential foundation of a new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2020.

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