“I Alone Can Fix It” - Reviewing President Trump’s Performance, Part II
Corey Uhden, Politics Contributor
OPINION - This is Part II of a series. Part I focused on President Trump’s accomplishments in his first six months since taking office. Part II will explore the issues on which the president has failed to live up to his promises.
While July 20, 2017 marked six months since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the next day also marked one year since he accepted the Republican nomination for the position he now holds. From the convention stage in Cleveland, Ohio, Trump thundered, “nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” With that in mind, here is President Trump’s performance review so far.
Congress had a full calendar from the moment Trump finished his inaugural address. Their work began by utilizing the rules of the Congressional Review Act to repeal fourteen regulations imposed during President Obama’s second term. President Trump signed them all, often inviting the press to witness him standing alongside Americans who stood to benefit from the regulatory relief. The Senate also began immediately vetting and approving nominees to serve in Trump’s cabinet. While Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson drew some scrutiny, both were eventually confirmed. Beyond the cabinet, however, very few positions have been filled, and while Trump and the Republicans blame Democratic obstruction, the truth is hardly any nominees have been submitted. The glacial pace is largely a result of a dearth of talent applying for positions and internal clashes among White House officials preventing placements. The exception was that of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch acquitted himself very well in his hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee but Democrats filibustered anyway, so Republicans banded together to change the rules so that Gorsuch and all future Supreme Court nominees could be appointed with a simple majority vote.
The Democrats, meanwhile, have refashioned themselves as “the resistance.” They have had four opportunities to test their mettle and fallen short every time. In Georgia’s sixth congressional district, the most expensive House race in history ended with no discernable gain for Democrat Jon Ossoff over Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2016. It still appears as if Democrats face an uphill challenge in reclaiming either chamber of Congress in 2018. That does not mean they are not having an impact in Washington. Repeal bills under the Congressional Review Act have only succeeded because they required a simple majority to pass. In the Senate, most pieces of legislation are subject to a cloture requirement, effectively making sixty votes the threshold to proceed. The House of Representatives has passed bills including a substantial effort to replace the Affordable Care Act and roll back financial regulations imposed through the Dodd-Frank reform act. They have gone nowhere in the Senate, even though the health care bill can be passed with a fifty-one votes under budget rules known as reconciliation.
After the House Republicans passed their version of a health care reform bill, most of them headed to the White House to participate in a photo opportunity and press conference with the president. Senate Republicans have been summoned to the White House too, mostly to be berated over failing to coalesce behind their own bill. Worse, in a private meeting, the president said the House’s bill was “mean” and later confirmed this statement in an interview aired on Fox and Friends. The Republican effort continues to flounder while President Trump has repeatedly distanced himself, going so far as to accept defeat and promise “we’ll let Obamacare fail.”
It cannot be overstated how much of a stranglehold President Trump has on Republican voters. He won ninety percent of their vote in 2016 and maintains an approval rating over seventy-five percent among Republican voters today. From the moment he stepped onto the stage in Cleveland promising, “the forgotten men and women will be forgotten no longer,” Republican voters disheartened by politicians failing to keep their promises and enraged at media bias were in his grasp. A looming investigation into Russian hackers’ attempts to influence the presidential election has evolved to include potential charges of collusion against senior members of the campaign and the president’s own conduct in pressuring and ultimately firing the Director of the FBI, James Comey. “The Russia thing,” as President Trump calls it, has already led to Michael Flynn being fired from his position as national security adviser after only twenty-one days on the job. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself and Trump’s firing of Comey led to the appointment of a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller III, to oversee the investigation and examine related matters. Still, Trump supporters consider the Russian issue a “ruse” or a conspiracy by “the deep state” to undermine his presidency.
However, not once has Trump ever capitalized on his base of support to pressure Congress to act on his priorities. He gave a well-received address to Congress in February and the White House has released a brief outline of their priorities on tax reform, but initiatives languish as Congress prepares to face deadlines on raising the national debt ceiling and passing appropriations bills to fund the government. With the health care effort sputtering, there is limited time to begin the reconciliation process to act on tax reform or any of the president’s other priorities before campaigning gets underway for the 2018 midterms.
On these matters, it seems the system has won. Trump could not fix it. His election was equivalent to an earthquake, but it turns out it was just a freak occurrence, and the ground mostly resettled.
You can follow the author on Twitter @CACoreyU
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