WASHINGTON — For Donald Trump, self-proclaimed master negotiator, making deals with Congress was supposed to be easy.
“This Congress is going to be the busiest Congress we’ve had in decades, maybe ever,” Trump predicted shortly after taking office.
With Republicans in charge of the House, the Senate and the White House for the first time in a decade, Trump didn’t reckon with the reality of GOP divisions so intractable they may doom his major legislative priorities.
A restive right flank willing to defy party leaders dealt him a humiliating setback on health care last month. That called into question whether Republicans will ever make good on their long-standing promise of repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
If they can’t repeal so-called Obamacare, they will likely also struggle to produce the sweeping tax legislation and massive infrastructure investments that Trump promised.
The White House is pushing House GOP leaders to try again on health care, and there’s been recent progress as the conservative House Freedom Caucus endorsed the latest version of the bill. But leaders are struggling to round up support from more moderate Republicans, and it’s uncertain when, or if, the legislation will come to a vote.
Meanwhile, the government is operating under a one-week, stopgap spending bill to avert a shutdown on Saturday, which coincided with Trump’s 100th day in office. Lawmakers needed more time to finish their sweeping $1 trillion legislation for the remainder of the 2017 budget year, work that is Congress’ most basic function.
The White House intervened in the negotiations late in the game to make demands on issues including the U.S.-Mexico border wall — demands that were then dropped. That was an intervention even some Republicans said was not productive. With little in the way of actual results so far, some Republicans have begun to fret openly about their thin record of accomplishments and sound alarms about a backlash from voters if the GOP doesn’t begin to produce.
“We can’t afford to go to the country in 2018 with a Republican president, Republican Senate and Republican House and say, ‘Well we just couldn’t get it done,’” said GOP Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. “That’s not defensible.”
Trump himself voiced frustration in an interview airing Friday on Fox News Channel, saying, “I’m disappointed that it doesn’t go quicker.”
“I think everybody is trying very hard,” the president said. “It is a very tough system.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way after eight years of chafing under Obama.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pledged they would seize the opportunity to work with the new Republican president and enact a bold GOP vision, starting with making…