The latest round of concern seizing Washington, DC, after President Donald Trump reportedly revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats is that it could put a damper on some of the GOP’s best-laid legislative plans.
The report from The Washington Post and subsequent administration response once again diverted attention away from the core of the GOP’s agenda, leaving analysts wondering if there would be room for any substantial legislative action anytime soon.
“This particular incident will likely fade into the background as the flood of events whisks us into the next news cycle, but the steady stream of White House missteps and unforced errors serves as a stark reminder that the GOP’s legislative agenda is slowly slipping from its hands,” Issac Boltansky and Lukas Davaz of the political research firm Compass Point wrote on Tuesday.
While there has been movement on some agenda items — most notably the passage of the American Health Care Act through the House — the progress has been slower than GOP leaders anticipated. And various White House missteps have swallowed up precious time.
Greg Valliere, the chief investment strategist at Horizon Investments and a longtime political analyst, wrote in a note to clients Tuesday that the missteps are drowning out progress on GOP goals like tax reform. But he said that could also present an unexpected opportunity.
“Obviously the Russian allegations, if true, are a shocking breach of security,” Valliere wrote. “The resulting furor will allow negotiations on health and taxes to proceed in virtual anonymity. Washington will not obsess over the border adjustment tax or the top corporate tax rate — there are bigger fish to fry.”
As Valliere pointed to in his note, several scheduled events this week could help advance some of the GOP’s economic agenda — including a Thursday hearing on tax reform in the House Ways and Means Committee and testimony from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to the Senate Banking Committee.
Another complicating factor: the amount of salesmanship Trump needs to get bills through Congress.
The AHCA was moved over the finish line in the House in part after a strong lobbying and public-relations effort from the White House to bring together the disparate ideological wings of the Republican conference.
Boltansky and Davaz said the agenda can get through the legislature, but Trump’s troubles will likely make an successes more difficult.
“We view this development as yet another sign that the GOP’s legislative agenda will likely need to advance in spite of President Trump rather than because of him,” they wrote.
Valliere agreed that the latest scandal could make congressional Republicans more sceptical of following the president’s marching orders.
“The operative word on Capitol Hill this morning, from both parties, is ‘chaos’ — and it seems that Republicans, who reluctantly backed Trump’s firing of James Comey, are distancing themselves from the embattled president,” Valliere wrote.
With slipping approval numbers and the self-inflicted missteps, the degree to which Trump can help bring the party together and pass the agenda through Congress remains in question.
Boltansky and Davaz wrote: “All is not lost for Republicans as tax reform was always to be a partisan affair, but our cautious optimism regarding the effort is diminishing as scandals drain the air from DC.”
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