The focus of Senate Republicans this week was supposed to be on passing their healthcare bill. But new bombshell developments in the controversy surrounding Russia’s election meddling could get in the way of those plans, analysts say.
The release of email exchanges involving Donald Trump Jr. and a music publicist, who arranged a meeting with a Russian attorney who promised to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton, provide another roadblock for Republicans’ agenda.
Policy analysts say the Trump Jr. are revelations are likely to slow — if not derail — the healthcare push, along with the other items like tax cuts.
Greg Valliere, the chief strategist at Horizon Investments, said the emails mark an important turning point in the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
“This is explosive — Donald Trump Jr. has admitted that he took a meeting with someone he apparently thought was a foreign agent who could affect the election,” Valliere said in an email to Business Insider. “So the word ‘collusion’ now becomes more credible.”
Isaac Boltansky, an analyst at the political research firm Compass Point, said “each drip of news from the Russian investigation” makes it less likely that Republicans are able to maintain political momentum.
“Some will view this meeting revelation as the smoking gun, while others will view it as nothing more than the realities of modern politics,” Boltansky said. “Either way, our message to clients is that the total tonnage of questions will have an impact on both Congressional GOP support for the White House and the broader legislative agenda.”
The new revelations come at a particularly damaging time, said Chris Krueger, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group, because the GOP is attempting to make serious progress on their healthcare bill and other must-pass legislation before the August recess. Republicans were hoping to make headway on raising the debt ceiling and a funding bill for the government before the recess, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday delayed until the third week of August.
The Russian investigation now appears to be “closer to completion” than either healthcare or tax reform, Krueger said.
“This is the most important three week legislative sprint of Trump Presidency and the multiple Russia investigations seem to be far further downfield than the mysterious tax reform unicorn, to say nothing of the legislative Vietnam that is health care,” Krueger said in an email to Business Insider.
Valliere said Republicans’ ability to push through various goals will come down to just how much Republicans stick by Trump and how many see the controversies as an impediment.
“The key is Republicans, most of whom are fed up with Trump,” Valliere said. “They’re in no mood to do him any favours, so this makes it even more difficult for the president to pass his agenda. Health reform is on life support, the budget will be a free-for-all and tax reform almost certainly will not pass this year.”
For an agenda already hitting roadblocks, analysts said that this is another unnecessary headache.
“The Russian scandal has gone from very serious to extremely serious, and it’s a clear negative for Trump’s agenda on Capitol Hill,” Valliere concluded.
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