Trump seeks symbolic win this week as 100-day milestone nears
President Trump will soon mark his 100-day milestone. (April 24, 2017) (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)
The White House urged lawmakers Sunday to make progress this week on a high-profile issue like healthcare or tax reform -- or at least to avoid the disruption and embarrassment of a federal government shutdown on Friday, a day before President Trump marks his first 100 days in office.
But Trump’s hopes for a tangible win before Saturday’s symbolic milestone appear snagged in a brewing showdown over his efforts to get Congress to also provide up to $5 billion to start building a massive and hugely expensive wall on the Southwest border.
That fight could leave the White House with the unpalatable choice of allowing a government shutdown after money runs out on Friday, or publicly backing away from a confrontation with Democrats who have adamantly refused to add border-wall money into a stopgap spending bill.
Even some Republicans say the wall can wait, and that the political and economic costs of a government shutdown aren’t worth it.
But Trump also faces a steep uphill fight this week in seeking both to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, after his first attempt collapsed in Congress last month, and to set the agenda for sweeping tax overhaul, as he has promised.
Ever since the 1930s, new presidents have sought to take advantage of their first 100 days in office, traditionally a honeymoon period of public goodwill, to try to notch landmark legislative achievements. Most, including Trump, laid out an ambitious agenda of what they planned to achieve in that period.
Trump, dogged by some of the lowest poll ratings at this point in a modern presidency and a failure so far to get any major bills through the GOP-led Congress, has belatedly ridiculed the 100-day mark as arbitrary and meaningless.
But he also has planned a campaign-style rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday to tout his initial accomplishments, returning to a political base whose loyalty he has largely retained despite some stinging early setbacks.
Making the Sunday talk-show rounds in advance of a consequential week, senior Trump aides played down the prospects of a government shutdown, while suggesting the president would hold fast to his demand to add money for border security – if not the wall itself -- to the catchall measure meant to keep the government afloat until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
“I’m pretty confident we’re going to get something that is satisfactory to the president in regard to border security within current negotiations,” Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
John Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, made a similar prediction on CNN’s “State of the Union” about Trump’s determination to build the wall.
“I would suspect he will be insistent on the funding,” Kelly said.
Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, expressed confidence that talks between Republican and Democratic leaders would lead to a solution that will keep the government solvent after Friday.
“I don’t think anybody foresees or expects or wants a shutdown,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Throughout his campaign, Trump has insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall, which is likely to cost tens of billions of dollars. On Sunday, he took to Twitter to declare that was still the long-term plan.
“Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall,” he tweeted.
Mexican officials have repeatedly and angrily rejected Trump’s demand. President Enrique Pena Nieto abruptly canceled a planned visit to the White House over the dispute early in Trump’s term and relations remain fraught.
Trump also has sought to pivot from last month’s stunning collapse of Republican efforts to bring a GOP-authored health-care measure to the House floor to replace Obamacare. Republican infighting derailed the effort and GOP leaders in the House pulled the bill before a vote to avoid a humiliating loss.
Although far-right and moderate Republicans apparently have not resolved their disputes over what a new health plan should contain, the president has said he wants a House vote in the coming week.
On Sunday, though, Priebus sought to de-emphasize the notion that a vote had to come before Saturday’s 100-day mark, saying that it did not matter it it came “Friday or Saturday or Monday.”
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he said in the NBC interview.
The White House has not put forward its own healthcare plan, and Trump has given little guidance as to what he thinks should be in the House plan — or how he would then get it past the Senate, where the likely House bill would face strong opposition.
Trump sought on Sunday to put pressure on the Democrats by renewing a threat to withhold funding for insurance subsidies. The Affordable Care Act, he said on Twitter, is in “serious trouble. The Dems need big money to keep it going – otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought.”
Democrats, in turn, say they have zero interest in helping Trump eviscerate a healthcare bill that Democrats had sought for decades, and that has helped provide health insurance to more than 20 million Americans since it was passed in 2010.
With a further eye toward big-picture initiatives, the White House said Trump would outline a tax plan midweek. Both individual and corporate tax cuts were centerpieces of the president’s campaign promises last year, and he has touted it as a top priority for his administration.
Aides, however, sought to dampen expectations as to how detailed that tax plan might be. Mulvaney said Trump would lay out “governing principles” and provide an indication of expected tax rates, but not necessarily at the granular level.
“I don’t think anybody expects us to roll out bill language on Wednesday,” he said on Fox.
The border wall, though, was shaping up as uncertain ground for a White House searching for an emblematic show of strength in the coming week. Democrats not only renewed their longstanding objections, but pointed to support from across the aisle for their unyielding stance.
“Democrats do not support the wall,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said on NBC, adding pointedly: “Republicans on the border states do not support the wall.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a onetime aspirant for the GOP presidential nomination, said “a conversation and a debate” about the border wall were “worth having” for the midterm elections in 2018.
“But we cannot shut down the government right now,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” citing international tensions including North Korea and Syria.
He also noted uncertainty surrounding the French presidential election, whose field on Sunday appeared to narrow to two contenders, including far-right standard-bearer Marine Le Pen.
“The last thing we can afford is to send a message to the world that the United States government, by the way, is only partially functioning,” Rubio said.
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