The gathering clouds over Trump
As President Trump approaches the end of his first year in office, a world of potential woe awaits him. Political chaos continues in Washington, exacerbated by a round of accusations against various political figures for harassing or sexually assaulting women, a moral crisis in which Trump himself stands accused — and remains unapologetic.
After a brief respite at Thanksgiving, the president now faces the music for neglecting a series of obligatory challenges before Congress as he still seeks a major legislative accomplishment.
Yesterday he effectively blew up his brief honeymoon with Democratic leaders “Chuck and Nancy” — Senate Minority Leader Schumer and House Minority Leader Pelosi — by tweeting this before a scheduled meeting to avoid a government shutdown: “Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our country unchecked, are week on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”
The immigration reference was to the fate of the so-called “Dreamers,” the undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, who Trump says face deportation if Congress doesn’t act.
Almost immediately, Schumer and Pelosi said that in light of Trump’s tweet they would not be attending the White House meeting, throwing the situation into deeper crisis and heightening the prospect of a government shutdown for lack of a budget agreement.
At the same time, the president’s impetuous action clouded his bid for Senate approval of his ambitious tax reform bill, including permanent tax cuts for corporations and only temporary cuts for individuals. Getting the tax bill to the Senate floor was a first step only, with solid Democratic opposition and some Republicans wavering.
A handful of key Republicans who earlier blocked Trump’s attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare had indicated they would approve the Senate version of the tax bill, which would repeal the health care individual mandate requiring coverage or payment of a penalty. That provision could yet imperil the bill.
In a Thanksgiving Day tweet, Trump had thrown a defiant rebuff at the opposition party, tweeting: “Even though the Dems want to Obstruct, we will Repeal & Replace right after Tax Cuts!” And now came his second, monkey-wrench, tweet.
Influential Republican House Appropriations Committee member Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania had told reporters earlier: “I just say be ready for a potentially wild month in December. This is going to get a bit complicated. … We’re going to need (the Democrats’) help.” That certainly seems unlikely now.
Also, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota warned: “The decisions made during the next month will affect Americans’ economic well-being for the next decade. Our job is to break through all the tweets and the noise and focus on the economics at hand.”
Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books.