- Republicans have pushed back against Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville.
- Trump’s influence on Capitol Hill was already shaky following a series of public spats with GOP lawmakers.
- Political analysts think the Charlottesville response may lead Republicans to push forward their agenda without Trump’s input.
President Donald Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville may be driving a wedge between him and Republican lawmakers, according to policy analysts, and his influence over their plans may be waning.
Trump’s muddled response to violence from neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville in the past few days took another turn on Tuesday when he blamed “both sides” for the violence and criticised people who did not think his initial response on Saturday was adequate.
This lead to a swift response from lawmakers, particularly in Trump’s own party.
Republican senators, including Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott, Marco Rubio, and Todd Young, offered critical statements on Trump’s Tuesday press conference, and many GOP House representatives did the same.
Given this repudiation of Trump, Isaac Boltansky, a political analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading, said that Trump is more and more on an island in his own party.
“This time feels different because the president is becoming more isolated with seemingly every move,” Boltansky told Business Insider on Wednesday.
This comes at a fraught moment for Trump’s influence on Capitol Hill.
Trump’s attempts to assist with the Republican healthcare bill were reportedly hamfisted, he has repeatedly attacked GOP lawmakers for what he sees as their inability to get anything done, and he went after Senate Majority Mitch McConnell through the press and Twitter last week.
On the non-Washington side, Trump’s influence over elections seemed to take a hit on Tuesday as his endorsement of Sen. Luther Strange, who temporarily replaced Jeff Sessions in the Senate and is now a candidate in Alabama’s GOP Senate primary, did not move the needle from his previous polling numbers. And in a House GOP primary in Utah, the winner explicitly expressed misgivings about Trump.
CNN noted that Fox News host Shep Smith couldn’t find a single Republican to go on-air to defend Trump on Wednesday. MSNBC and CNN hosts also reported trouble booking guests.
Given this growing distance between the White House and the Hill along with the condemnation of the president’s Charlottesville response, Trump’s ability to fight for particular policies may be almost non-existent, said Greg Valliere, chief investment officer and long-time political analyst at Horizon Investments.
“Republicans are in agreement — they will move on their own, ignoring Trump, on issues like the budget and taxes, and they have a chance to prevail,” Valliere wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday. “There’s growing unity among Republicans to forge ahead; if any legislation passes it will be in spite of Trump, not because of him.”
Brian Gardner, a political analyst at KBW, said that the statements could be a monkey wrench in the future relationship between Congress and Trump.
“This does not mean that lawmakers will reflexively vote against the President on policy matters not related to this week’s events and on which there is broad agreement (i.e. tax policy),” Gardner said in a note to clients. “However, this week’s events and the President’s response will complicate future collaboration.”
In addition to Republican lawmakers, businesses have been strong proponents of policies like tax reform and are also pulling away from Trump.
Two of Trump’s councils with business leaders disbanded on Wednesday, after a mass exodus made it untenable for the groups to continue.
The Wall Street Journal also reported Wednesday that despite Trump’s openly pro-business attitude, the recent run of troubles coming from the White House may have alienated a growing number of business executives and some CEOs are reconsidering their involvement with the White House.
Given the lobbying power of these organisations, the inability to keep them cosy for help on Trump’s agenda is not a positive sign.
In the end, Trump’s alienation of members of his own party and the business leaders he openly courted in the early days of his presidency is likely to leave him with a harder time getting his priorities accomplished.
“Even for Republicans, working with the White House could be seen as politically dangerous,” Gardner said. “The President’s approval ratings are already poor and may dip further. Frankly, there will be little to be gained by working with the White House.”
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