President Donald Trump’s flirtations with Democrats and fixation on divisive campaign promises have paved the way for hazardous, rolling deadlines over the next six months on spending, the debt ceiling and immigration.
The debt and spending bill approved by Capitol Hill on Friday averted imminent fiscal disaster, but it’s added more misery for a Republican Party whose agenda has floundered even with unified control of Washington for the first time in a decade. It’s also given Democrats significant leverage to imperil tax reform, the GOP’s best hope at a major legislative victory.
Rather than dictating the agenda of Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers oftentimes find themselves at the whims of a capricious White House, Democrats in the minority and a calendar that’s getting increasingly packed ahead of campaign season next spring.
Speaker Paul Ryan predicted in January that tax reform, Obamacare repeal and a border wall would all be done by now. Instead, Obamacare repeal may be completely dead at month’s end, there are just broad strokes on tax reform and many Republicans oppose the border wall being pushed by their own president.
Now GOP lawmakers across the party’s ideological spectrum are agonizing about the party’s stark lack of achievements after getting rolled by Democrats in debt ceiling negotiations this week.
“If we get to December and we’ve not repealed and replaced Obamacare, we’ve not built the wall, we’ve not done tax reform, let me just tell you it is not going to be pretty,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
“I’m extremely worried,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who’s urging him to cancel an October recess to get more accomplished. “My gosh, why were we not here in August doing all of this?”