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Feckless leadership from McConnell, Ryan a big problem for Republicans


The public feud between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump continues to simmer. 

While McConnell openly questions the survival of Trump’s presidency, Trump actively goes after McConnell on Twitter. According to reports, the two haven’t spoken in weeks, despite the onslaught of upcoming legislative deadlines in September.

Unsurprisingly, the media has largely sided with McConnell, painting the majority leader as the unwitting victim of Trump’s petty Twitter rages and scolding Trump for sowing disunity within the GOP.

{mosads}But waving off the public spat as just another of Trump’s mood swings belies the genuine frustration from a president who has had his policy priorities largely ignored, and even stymied, by the GOP Congress.


Trump is eight months into his first term. On the executive side of Capitol Hill, where Trump controls the agenda, the action has been robust. The president has pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, released a budget, repealed or reformed numerous burdensome regulations, cracked down on sanctuary cities, formulated tougher national security protocols for immigration from high risk areas, enhanced production of domestic energy sources, taken on the issue of transgendered soldiers in the military, devised a strategy for the war in Afghanistan and initiated an all-out agency reorganization effort, designed to make government more efficient.

Yet in the areas where he needs congressional support to implement his agenda, there has been either dithering or incompetence.

Take the total disaster that has been ObamaCare repeal. Despite promising for nearly a decade to repeal ObamaCare, Mr. “Repeal it root and branch” himself, Leader McConnell, couldn’t bring his conference to heel.

The border wall that was a centerpiece of Trump’s agenda? To date, Congress has failed to fund it, and Speaker Paul Ryan has shrugged off the president’s most recent request for $1.6 billion to start construction.

How about tax reform, which is a signature policy issue for the president? While the White House has issued their topline priorities, Congress has issued…nothing. Critically, neither the House nor Senate has said how they intend to pass tax reform now that the passage of an FY2018 budget – and its corresponding reconciliation instructions – looks slim.

Even on judicial confirmations – where the Senate has gotten a lot of credit – there are credibility issues. True, the majority leader did get Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court by eliminating the last 60 vote threshold for judicial confirmations. But, in the absence of the filibuster, why have only four circuit and district court judges been confirmed? At roughly the same time in their terms, President Obama had 11 circuit and district court judges confirmed, G. W. Bush had 28, and Clinton had 27. Even with a Republican Senate and no opportunity for Democrats to filibuster, Trump has more judicial vacancies than all but one of the previous five presidents. What, exactly, has the Senate been doing?

(In fairness, the Senate did manage to pass 16 commemorative resolutions in August, including the commemoration of U.S.-grown flowers, and the designation of Collector Car Appreciation Day. It’s July 14, if anyone was curious.)

The coup de grace of congressional mismanagement, however, has to be the approaching legislative train wreck in September. Government funding, the debt ceiling (which allows the US to continue to borrow money) and no less than five legislative deadlines all hit on September 30.

Traditionally, debt ceiling votes and funding bills provide an area for policy negotiation, fiscal reforms, tax cuts, and funding for priorities. (In 2011, with Obama as president, Republicans were able to pass unprecedented spending reforms in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.)

Despite GOP majorities in the House and Senate, there is no plan for handling this, at least not one that has been shared with the president. 

When all these things are considered in aggregate, one can sense President Trump’s frustration, and begin to understand it.

He has received little cooperation – and practically no deference – from this GOP-led Congress, many of whom were elected in the same wave that put President Trump in office.

Majorities in the House, Senate and a leadership in the White House provide congressional Republicans with unprecedented opportunities to make lasting policy changes. In fact, these majorities and the White House are just what McConnell and Ryan said they needed in order to make the changes they campaigned upon.

While the talking heads may clutch their pearls in horror over Trump Twitter-feuding with McConnell, perhaps they should start casting their gaze over to the other side of the Capitol, where it’s unclear anyone knows how to get anything done. 

Rachel Bovard (@Rachel_Bovard) is the senior director of policy for The Conservative Partnership, a nonprofit group headed by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint aimed at promoting limited government.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell ObamaCare Paul Ryan Paul Ryan Rachel Bovard Republican Party

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