'We're going to walk and chew gum': Republicans are forging ahead on tax cuts and healthcare amid the Trump bombshells

Despite the political firestorm engulfing the White House in recent days, Republicans in Congress are making their best attempt to forge ahead with key parts of their agenda.

Look no further than the House GOP leadership’s press conference Wednesday, hours after reports suggested President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian officials.

The leadership geared its message almost exclusively on tax reform.

Questions from reporters focused almost totally on the Comey reports, so House Speaker Paul Ryan took the chance to reiterate that the GOP plans to continue to advance its legislative agenda while the investigation continues.

“We’re going to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Ryan said. “We’re going to keep doing our jobs, we’re going to keep passing our bills, we’re going to keep advancing our reforms that we were elected to advance while we do all these other things that are within our responsibility.”

He added: “I don’t worry about things that are outside of my control.”

Other Republicans also treated the reports as a concurrent issue rather than an all-encompassing problem.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican and chair of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, was vocal in his comments on the Comey issue but said he was keeping an eye on other parts of the agenda as well.

“We’re just going to have to stay focused and not follow the 15-minute news cycle,” Graham told Politico on Tuesday. “It all depends on what we can accomplish. If we can get a health care bill that works better than Obamacare and we can get a tax bill, then a lot of this will just be political theatre.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also focused nearly exclusively on tax reform during his comments on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday morning, a stark contrast to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s comments that focused on Comey.

That approach aligned with remarks McConnell made during an appearance on Bloomberg TV on Tuesday, after reports that Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office.

“I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things,” McConnell said. “So we can focus on our agenda which is deregulation, tax reform, and repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

Some analysts suggested the White House missteps could end up benefitting the GOP’s legislative push by allowing the party to focus on things like healthcare and tax reform in the background of the news cycle.

“On the domestic front, we still expect the beginnings of movement on a tax reform bill, but other issues will have to come first: the debt ceiling and the fiscal 2018 budget fight, plus the Senate’s re-write of the House Obamacare replacement bill, which actually is advancing,” Greg Valliere, chief investment strategist and political analyst at Horizon Investments, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday. “With the White House transfixed by bigger issues, there may be minimal legislative interference from Trump aides, which might be a good thing.”

Both chambers of Congress appear ready to move forward on the tax push despite the Comey saga. The House Ways and Means Committee is holding its first hearing on tax reform Thursday, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will testify on taxes to the Senate Finance Committee.

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