Now that Congress’ spring break is over, Republican lawmakers back in Washington are facing pressure from the White House to tackle some big items on President Trump’s agenda, even as many of them would prefer to devote their attention over the coming months to the elections this fall.
This year “was supposed to be a lay-up for Congressional Republicans,” writes Chris Krueger of the Cowen Washington Research group. The plan, Krueger explains, was to “just run out the clock and hope the 2017 laundry list of tax cuts, judges, Gorsuch, deregulation, and defense spending was enough to hold the House and Senate. All the sharp objects — debt ceiling, sequester, shutdowns — were removed from the table and the problem children were sequestered.”
Trump has upended those plans. The Associated Press’ Lisa Mascaro reports that members of Congress are “scrambling to compile a to-do list that will satisfy a president they desperately need to be promoting their achievements, not undermining them, as they prepare to hit the campaign trail.”
Trump’s dissatisfaction with Congress was made public when the president threatened to veto the $1.3 trillion spending bill last month — and while he ultimately signed the bill, he is reportedly still discussing rescinding some of that money, a move that would require more budget votes in the run-up to the elections.
Mascaro also notes that Trump’s personnel changes will add lengthy confirmation hearings for his appointed secretary of state, CIA director and Veteran Affairs chief to the congressional calendar, drawing renewed attention to a number of issues lawmakers seeking re-election might prefer to keep out of the headlines.
And lawmakers hoping for a steady drumbeat of presidential praise about the tax cut package they passed last year might be disappointed. At a West Virginia campaign event last week that was meant to sell the tax reform law, Trump threw his prepared remarks on tax cuts in the air and said, “This is boring, come on,” as he himself told the gathered crowd. He instead riffed on immigration and border security, dredging back up his claims about voter fraud and Mexican rapists coming to the U.S.
As lawmakers well know, the elections are 211 days away and counting.