A make-or-break week for Trump

President Trump will head to Capitol Hill on Tuesday amid a make-or-break week for his policy agenda.

Trump plans to rally Senate Republicans at their weekly policy luncheon ahead of a key committee vote on tax reform — the GOP’s last, best chance for a major legislative victory this year. 

Trump, who will follow up his Capitol Hill visit with a Wednesday trip to Missouri to plug the tax bill, is trying to show he’s committed to salvaging his legislative agenda by making his second visit to the Capitol in two weeks. 


But one day before the meeting, Trump threw Republicans off message when he referred to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race MORE (D-Mass.) as “Pocahontas” during an event honoring Native American veterans. 

The insult took attention away from the GOP’s tax push and sparked a major backlash from Democrats who accused him of using a racial slur, a charge the White House denied. 

It undoubtedly disappointed Republicans hoping for a disciplined message on tax reform from the White House.

Trump played the role of cheerleader during a meeting of House Republicans less than two weeks ago, before they passed their version of tax reform — a vote that was expected to succeed. 

This time, Trump will face a more difficult task.

Lawmakers are struggling with a growing list of challenges that could complicate Trump’s plan to score a speedy win on taxes. 

Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesPower players play chess match on COVID-19 aid Democrats seek to block appeal of court ruling ousting Pendley, BLM land plans Climate change — Trump's golden opportunity MORE (Mont.) on Monday became the second Republican to come out against the GOP tax bill. While many expect Daines will not be a “no” vote in the end, his opposition highlights how few votes Republicans have to lose. They can survive just two defections from their party and still have Vice President Pence break a 50-50 tie.


Trump said Monday the tax push is “going very well” and even expressed optimism the bill could get bipartisan support. 

But he also said he would support “a few changes” to assuage the concerns of Daines and the other GOP holdout, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Biden: Johnson should be 'ashamed' for suggesting family profited from their name Graham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions MORE (Wis.), who worry the proposal helps corporations but not other businesses. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMellman: What happened after Ginsburg? Bottom line Bottom line MORE (R-Utah) emerged from a Monday afternoon meeting with Trump expressing some uncertainty over whether Congress will meet the president’s Christmas deadline to sign a tax bill.

“I hope so,” Hatch told reporters.

In addition to making a hard sell on taxes, Trump is grappling with a looming government-funding deadline. 

Both chambers must pass a spending bill by Dec. 8 to avoid a government shutdown, and a partisan fight over immigration has snarled efforts to reach a deal.

Those topics are expected to dominate a separate Tuesday meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Ky.), Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Overnight Health Care: CDC expands definition of 'close contact' after COVID-19 report | GOP coronavirus bill blocked in Senate | OxyContin maker agrees to B settlement with Trump administration MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-N.Y.) at the White House. 

The huddle will be closely watched to see how Trump handles the roiling disputes.

House Republican leaders are hoping the president boosts their leverage in spending talks by endorsing their position on key policy fights. 

Lawmakers have not even agreed to spending levels, making it likely that they will have to pass a stopgap funding bill to avoid a shutdown. 

Republican leaders hope Trump supports their plan to raise defense spending caps that were imposed in a 2011 budget deal, according to a source familiar with their thinking. 

They also want Trump to back their demand that immigration be kept separate from any stopgap spending measure. 

Republicans and Democrats have squabbled for weeks over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era initiative that allowed young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to live and work in the country.

Trump set off a scramble on Capitol Hill when he terminated the program earlier this year.


Many Democrats are threatening to withhold their support from a spending bill if the DACA provisions are not included, raising the risk of a shutdown. 

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday those Democrats are trying to “hold the government hostage.”

Democrats say they won’t back down from their demands on immigration. They also plan to push Trump to back a bipartisan deal to fund the government, extend community health center funding, approve new disaster relief and reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 

“There is a bipartisan path to getting there, and we hope that we can make progress on all of those issues,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide.

The meetings come against the backdrop of renewed tensions between Trump and McConnell. 

The president’s relationship with the top Senate Republican has become even more strained over GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of making sexual advances on teenagers when he was in his 30s. 

McConnell tried unsuccessfully to persuade Trump to distance himself from Moore, who McConnell believes could lose to his Democratic opponent or win and tarnish the GOP brand ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.


The two leaders, who have never been close, openly feuded after the Senate failed to pass an ObamaCare repeal bill over the summer.

Trump shocked Washington in September by hammering out a deal with Schumer and Pelosi — instead of his own party’s leaders — on government spending and raising the debt ceiling.

The deal appeared to signal a new power dynamic, in which Trump would broker deals directly with Democratic leaders when Republicans could not deliver. 

But that fell apart in the ensuing days after the collapse of a Trump-Schumer-Pelosi agreement to salvage the DACA program. 

Sanders on Monday refused to rule out the possibility Trump would try and make similar deals in the future. 

“If the president can make a deal and [if] any of those Democrats would like to come on board and support tax reform, I think that’s something we would certainly welcome,” she said.