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ObamaCare defeat caps difficult week for Trump

When he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination as president last summer in Cleveland, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE triumphantly proclaimed, “I alone can fix it.”

Trump was served a cold dose of reality seven months later when he agreed with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director Bottom line Ex-Trump chief of staff Priebus mulling Wisconsin governor bid MORE (R-Wis.) to abandon the first major legislative initiative of his presidency, a plan to replace ObamaCare, after it became clear it would fail on the House floor. 

Friday’s stunning events could have wide-ranging consequences for the rest of Trump’s agenda.

A political novice, the New York real estate magnate rode to victory in 2016 by persuading voters he would successfully use his dealmaking skills to solve of the nation’s toughest problems. 

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Trump became heavily involved in selling and negotiating the plan, holding at least 17 meetings on overhauling the healthcare system, according to CBS News reporter and unofficial White House historian Mark Knoller. 

Those included arm-twisting sessions (in person and on Twitter) with conservative and moderate factions that opposed the plan, as well as invites to the White House bowling alley and a rare personal trip to Capitol Hill. 

His aides were more than eager to tout “The Art of the Deal” author’s abilities to get people to come to an agreement. “He is the closer,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday.

But Trump conceded defeat just 18 days after the American Health Care Act was introduced, raising questions about his ability to overcome deep divisions in his own party that still remain even after the GOP’s 2016 sweep.

“I’m disappointed. I'm a little surprised, to be honest with you. We really had it. It was pretty much there within grasp,” he said after the bill was pulled.

“We all learned a lot. We learned a lot about loyalty. We learned a lot about the vote-getting process,” he added. 

The result showed Trump has a steep learning curve in translating his skills from the private sector to Congress, where the ability to navigate complex factions, master the details and forge longstanding relationships are keys to success.

“This isn't a one-on-one negotiation. This is, you know, you have to get to 216,” Spicer said Friday ahead of the vote.

The president, however, expressed hope he would come out of the experience in a position to broker an “even better” healthcare agreement with Democrats down the road.

First, Trump will have to recover from arguably the rockiest week of his young presidency. 

It began Monday when FBI Director James Comey revealed the bureau is investigating whether Trump associates cooperated with Russia as it sought to meddle in the election, a probe that could hang over the White House for months — if not longer. 

Comey also rebuked Trump by saying he has seen no evidence to back up his claim that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. 

That same day, Gallup released a daily tracking poll showing Trump’s approval rating at 37 percent, a historically low figure for a president this early in his first term. 

The tumultuous events largely overshadowed the smooth confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a decision Trump took that united his entire party. 

All the political damage could complicate the items that are next on Trump’s agenda: a tax-reform bill and a major infrastructure package. 

Both could prove even more complex than healthcare. President Obama tried and failed multiple times to broker a broad tax agreement with Republicans in Congress. The infrastructure plan, which could cost as much as $1 trillion, could require support from Democrats who have largely been unwilling to work with Trump on anything. 

While Trump has yet to master “The Art of the Deal” during his first two months in the White House, a piece of advice from his 1987 book still rings true. 

 

“I never get too attached to one deal or one approach,” he wrote. “For starters, I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.”