Written by Aldo Aragon
After a two-week recess, Congressional Republicans and the White House will return to an interesting and potentially damaging week. Republican leadership will attempt to avoid a shutdown while President Trump pushes to close off his first 100 days with fireworks. It has been reported that President Trump will release his tax plan this Wednesday. President Trump’s plan is expected to create tension with Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) tax reform efforts, particularly as it pertains to the border adjustment tax, a tax on imported goods sold to domestic consumers.
Meanwhile, reports claim that Republicans will attempt to revive ‘repeal-and-replace’ this week, with some within Republican circles claiming a vote will happen by Friday. Yet, this push has been undermined by the president himself as he said he is in “no particular rush” to see action against the Affordable Care Act.
Let’s not forget the potential government shutdown. If Democrats and Republicans cannot broker a deal for a spending bill, President Trump’s 100th day will be remembered as the day Republicans let the government shutdown. The feasibility of a shutdown has grown since President Trump released his controversial ‘skinny budget,’ which called for massive cuts to domestic discretionary spending while providing immense increases to defense and border security expenditures. The specific point of contention for the budget talks is the border wall, Trump’s campaign cornerstone that elicited chants from his high-octane crowds.
Naturally, Democrats want nothing to do with the wall, but an interesting development comes from Republican representatives hailing from border states. Facing pressure from constituents and expressing cynicism about the price tag, many border Republicans are expressing opposition to providing such a large check for a border wall that is bound to run into a barrage of problems. Budget director Mick Mulvaney may have made things worse by providing an ultimatum: favor spending on the wall or ACA subsidies that help millions of Americans purchase health insurance will be eliminated. As the ACA’s popularity increases, this is certainly a questionable strategy.
What lies at the core of this week’s legislative sessions is a the White House’s desire to implement a legislative victory that President Trump can take to his rallies. President Trump yearns for a gold star that can stand at the forefront of his first 100 days in the oval office. Despite this evident wish, party organization and a coherent agenda with a unified message continue to be non-existent. The holy trinity of tax reform, healthcare, and avoiding a shutdown would have CNN hosts calling Trump ‘presidential’ throughout the summer. Nevertheless, it is more likely that more than one failure will occur. Support around the border wall could easily collapse, forcing the GOP to step away from that provision to avoid looking even weaker and more disorganized. Conflicting tax plans will only add to the layers of ridicule already launched at the party’s demonstrated incoherence. Finally, though no formal text for a health care repeal has yet been released, some of the rumored details—such as waivers allowing higher premiums for people depending on their health status—seem like they would repel the moderate Republican forces required to pass anything in Congress.
We have not even taken into account the pessimistic reaction from markets to a shutdown. The synchronization of political fragmentation and economic tremors would diminish Trump’s political capital as the tax battle prepares for a summer fight. Let’s be clear, if shutdown appears imminent, Republican party leaders prepared a one-week emergency funding plan that would keep the lights on and the water running at Capitol Hill. But, triggering of this safety net alone further deteriorates President Trump’s inability to broker a deal with a fractured Congress.
Many Republicans may wish to describe what is going on within the Republican Party as organized chaos, but for now, to anyone with a clear mind and open eyes, it is merely chaos.