Trump cools to idea of taking on welfare programs, seeing little chance of success in Congress

President has begun telling advisers that it will likely be impossible to advance legislation this year to reduce welfare spending and enrollment — a priority he previously embraced with the backing of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and a number of conservative activists.

In conversations with aides and outside advisers in recent days, Trump has said his supporters would embrace the idea — but that it remains unlikely because the votes will not be there in and it would be a difficult undertaking in an election year. Some Republicans want to reduce health-care, housing and food-stamp spending by making it tougher for beneficiaries to receive the dollars — such as through new work requirements.

But a number of White House officials and advisers have begun tamping down expectations for any overhaul of social safety-net programs, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told Trump it’s a nonstarter in his chamber because he would need the support of Democrats who oppose the idea, a White House adviser said.

Abandoning an effort to scale back welfare programs before it even begins could disappoint conservatives who have been pushing the issue for years, although some said they understand it would be difficult to do in the current political environment.

“I don’t know that we accept it,” said Rep. , a North Carolina Republican who leads the conservative Freedom Caucus. “But besides the possibility of an infrastructure bill, the only two things that will probably get done are an immigration deal and keeping the lights on in the government.”

Discussions about this year’s legislative agenda began Friday at Camp David, where Trump is hosting a retreat with McConnell, Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Republican leaders, who want to hash out details of an immigration plan and a cohesive strategy for this year, when Republicans are likely to face a difficult political terrain ahead of the midterm elections.



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