Errol Louis: Experienced politicians sense weakness in Trump's administration
McCain's op-ed is a reminder of the divide between Trump and the GOP, Louis writes
Editor’s Note: Errol Louis is the host of “Inside City Hall,” a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
President Donald Trump is in for a bumpy political ride when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day. A remarkable number of leaders of the President’s party have begun sharply criticizing Trump, signaling that he can no longer expect lawmakers to follow the White House’s lead on major legislation.
The latest blast from Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was elected to his sixth term in the Senate on the same day Trump won last November.
“Congress must govern with a President who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct,” McCain wrote in a toughly-worded Washington Post opinion piece.
“We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power.”
In political terms, that’s a declaration of independence – one that could, over time, turn into a declaration of war.
“Hill Republicans are increasingly worried that Trump’s penchant for drama – and the constant bickering in the West Wing – is going to crush their agenda,” Politico reports.
Gone are the sunny days after last November’s election when House Speaker Paul Ryan crowed about “the dawn of a new unified Republican government,” with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and the White House. Repeal of Obamacare was supposed to happen quickly, followed by tax reform and a major infrastructure bill.
What a difference nine months makes. Obamacare remains the law of the land, no infrastructure proposal has emerged and an ambitious August deadline for tax reform has already been pushed back.
There’s a reason for the growing distance between Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans. In the tough jungle warfare of Washington, professional politicians of both parties are quick to sense weakness and tend to move with ruthless speed to fill power vacuums.
Experienced legislators look at Trump’s tumultuous eight months in office and see weakness.
They see an erratic and embattled President who is dogged by infighting, firings and resignations among his top aides, sagging public approval numbers and an ominously expanding investigation of possible ties to Russia.
Washington politicians have clearly sized up those kinds of problems and concluded that the Trump White House is in no position to dictate the shape or speed of legislation to Congress.
“Our new President, of course, has not been in this line of work before. I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in August after Trump criticized McConnell for not passing a repeal of Obamacare.
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That was tame compared with what McCain wrote.
Concerns about getting tax cuts and other legislation passed goes hand in hand with the hard reality that Trump’s low approval numbers could spell political trouble for Congressional Republicans in next year’s midterm elections.
A recent poll shows Democrats with a nine- to 10-point lead over Republicans when voters are asked which party they would like to see control the House. GOP leaders aren’t panicking over those numbers – yet. But all signs are pointing toward a restless Congress that is unwilling to sacrifice its political future for Donald Trump.