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National Govt & Politics
After health care bill failure, Trump has few legislative victories on the horizon in Congress
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After health care bill failure, Trump has few legislative victories on the horizon in Congress

After health care bill failure, Trump has few legislative victories on the horizon in Congress
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

After health care bill failure, Trump has few legislative victories on the horizon in Congress

After a Republican push in Congress on a GOP health care overhaul bill melted down last Friday, there are not many opportunities for President Donald Trump to turn things around on Capitol Hill right now, as with little of his agenda in the pipeline, it is possible that the President may have to waits months for a significant legislative achievement to make it through the Congress.

Here is where things stand on Capitol Hill for the Trump Administration.

1. Lots of campaign promises, but little ready for action. With the GOP health care bill seemingly now off the agenda in the Congress, where does President Trump go for a much-needed legislative victory? The answer reminds me of what I said about health care and Republicans for the last six years - they have lots of ideas, but there is no GOP consensus on what to do, or how to get it through the House and Senate. That description could apply to a number of big issues, like tax reform, budget cuts, entitlement reform, balancing the budget, building new roads and bridges, and many other issues. For a variety of reasons, there are no bills ready for action on anything major at this point on the Trump Agenda, as Mr. Trump is definitely behind where things stood eight years ago legislatively.

2. The one bright spot for Trump - Neil Gorsuch. Let's not ignore the one possible victory in the short term for the President, his choice for U.S. Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch was untouched in last week's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but his final approval is not a slam dunk, as Democrats are threatening to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination. Still, it's not clear that all Democrats will go along with that, and Gorsuch may get approved after an Easter break on Capitol Hill. That would certainly be a big victory for Mr. Trump and Republicans - but it may be about the only major item they will celebrate on any time soon in the halls of Congress.

3. Tax reform unlikely to produce a quick victory for Trump. While the President has made clear he wants to move on from the GOP health care debacle to tax reform, that is not an item that will fly through Congress. If you think health care reform is tricky, just wait until you get every corporate lobbyist imaginable in Washington, D.C. involved in a major tax reform effort. The last time the Congress approved a tax reform bill, it took a little over a year to get it through the House and Senate and to the President's desk - that was the Tax Reform Act of 1986. There is a reason they call the lobby outside of the House Ways and Means Committee, "Gucci Gulch" - it will be packed with very well paid lobbyists of all stripes.

4. A U.S.-Mexican border wall is no slam dunk. President Trump has asked the Congress to approve $3.1 billion so his administration can jump start work on a wall along the Mexican border, but that's no gimme on Capitol Hill. Mr. Trump wants some of that money approved as part of budget plan for the rest of the current fiscal year; a temporary budget runs out on April 28. While that is just over a month from now, the Congress will soon be gone on a two week Easter break, and there are some fears a mini-budget showdown next month could even lead to a government shutdown. One thing that may rile up some Republicans is the need to use eminent domain to get the land along the border to build the wall. Trump likes eminent domain - many in the GOP do not.

5. What about the Trump Infrastructure plan? Through the campaign, there was a lot of talk by the President about a $1 trillion package for infrastructure spending - not all from the government, but a public-private partnership to deliver construction jobs on news roads, bridges and more. But over two months into his administration, the White House has not yet delivered a plan, and Congress is not ready with any bill as of yet. The odd part of this issue is obvious, as Republicans spent the last eight years resisting much smaller infrastructure plans offered by President Obama, mainly on the grounds of the cost. This is another major issue that's not ready for a vote in either the House or Senate.

6. Trump budget likely to bring even more Capitol Hill intrigue. If you enjoyed the ebb and flow of the internal Republican troubles over health care, just wait until we get to the budget presented by President Trump. That plan is asking for $54 billion more in defense spending next year, offset by $54 billion in budget cuts from non-defense programs. Just as the GOP was divided into different camps on health care, the same is true on the budget. Some Republican lawmakers are aghast at the lack of effort by the White House to deal with the budget deficit. Others want much more in defense spending. There are many ready to resist various cuts put forward by the White House as well. Some of the specific Trump cuts that would be felt in local communities are already drawing fire, with little push back from the White House. Here's a perfect example of budget concern coming from a red state:

7. GOP finger pointing won't help produce legislative wins. President Trump on Sunday used Twitter to lash out at conservative Republicans in Congress and outside conservative groups that were opposed to the health care reform bill that ran aground last week, as he singled out the Freedom Caucus for criticism. "Mark Meadows betrayed Trump and America and supported Pelosi and Democrats to protect Obamacare," said Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), again going after the head of the House Freedom Caucus. Not only is the country divided politically, but so too is the Republican Party in Congress, and that was very obvious in the last week. If the majority party isn't united in Washington, that makes life difficult when it comes to legislating. This tweet shows you some Republicans aren't scared of crossing the President one bit.

8. It's not just the Freedom Caucus that Trump is mad at. As more stories leak out about the President's lobbying efforts on health care, it's becoming apparent that he gave an earful to some Republican moderates as well. On NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) acknowledged that he had been on the receiving end of one Trump jab, as the President reportedly told Dent that he and other opponents of the health care bill were "destroying America," as the New York Times reported that Trump told Dent his position would endanger future efforts in Congress at tax reform. One had Trump wondering aloud, "Why am I even talking to you?" when Dent said he would be a "No" vote.

9. Whither the Freedom Caucus? Whether they've been called the Freedom Caucus or Tea Party Republicans, those more conservative Republicans elected in the GOP since the 2010 elections have been very straightforward in the amount of change that they want to see in Congress and in the federal government - a lot. But the problem is, they've done little more than just be the block of votes that says, "No" - they have not been a group that's bubbling over with legislative ideas, they have not been on the floor leading the charge on budget cuts and other government reform proposals. This latest battle over health care prompted one Republican to quit the Freedom Caucus on Sunday - Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) made clear that he wants to see legislative achievements in the future.

10. So, where does that leave Trump? Don't buy into the stories that say everything is collapsing for President Trump. But don't go whistling by the graveyard either. I wrote five weeks ago that the GOP Congress had nothing really in the legislative pipeline for Trump to sign, other than some bills that repealed individual rules from the Obama Administration. While those certainly fit into what Trump promised during the campaign, most of that is not tip-of-the-tongue kind of stuff for politicians back home. But it's all that Republicans have right now in terms of action in Congress. Trump seemed to understand that, as he made it part of his pitch to reluctant Republicans on health care. And for now, there seem to be few opportunities for legislative success in the near term for Mr. Trump. Momentum is important in sports. And it is important in politics as well.

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Washington Insider

  • With June 4, 2019 marking the 100th anniversary of the approval by Congress of a constitutional change which guaranteed women the ability to vote in the United States, a look back at the final debates in the House and Senate showcased dire predictions that giving women the franchise would bring a rush to socialism in American and spur racial problems in the South. 'It will not only add to the growth of socialism, but will likewise contribute to the upbuilding of femininism and Bolshevism in America,' thundered Rep. Frank Clark, a Florida Democrat who bitterly opposed the women's suffrage amendment. 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'Is suffrage such a question as should be snatched from the control of the States and lodged in a rapidly centralizing government?' asked Rep. Eugene Black, a Democrat from Texas, as a number of lawmakers in both parties said the individual states should decide who votes, and who does not. 'Under the fifteenth amendment, not only the negro, for whom it was adopted, but the sons of every other race under the sun may vote in any State in the Union, provided they or their ancestors have once been naturalized,' argued Rep. Rufus Hardy, a Democrat from Texas. 'What evils may yet come of the fifteenth amendment only the future may unfold,' Hardy said, as he drew applause in advocating states' rights, and denouncing federal decisions about who could vote. 'It is a privilege to be granted or withheld at the pleasure of the States,' said Rep. Clark of Florida. But some urged southern lawmakers to reconsider, asking the 'gentlemen of Dixie' to give their mothers a chance to vote for them. Several weeks later, as the Senate vote on the 19th amendment approached in early June, the debate became more testy - more focused on race - and the right of states to determine who can vote. 'When it says that there shall be no restriction of the suffrage on account of sex, it means the female sex, and means the millions upon millions of Negro women in the South,' said Sen. Ellison Smith, a Democrat from South Carolina. The argument from southern Senators was simple - the states should decide who votes, not the federal government.  It was a preview of the battles to come during the Civil Rights era. 'Mr. President, it is not a question today as to whether the women of American should have the right to vote,' said Sen. Oscar Underwood, a Democrat from Alabama.  “It is a question of whether, in the end, our Government shall live.” Supporters of the amendment openly acknowledged that black women in the South probably would not be allowed to vote by southern states - precisely in the same way that hurdles had been placed in the way of black Americans voting in the states of the former Confederacy - a charge that left southern Senators like Smith aggravated. 'I have heard it flippantly remarked by those who propose to vote for this amendment, 'You found a way to keep the Negro man from voting and you will find away to keep the unworthy Negro woman from voting,' Smith said on the Senate floor, as he denounced how the South had been 'deluged by an alien and unfit race.' “You went specifically after the Negro men in the fifteenth amendment,” Smith said in Senate debate.  “Now you go specifically after the Negro and white women in this amendment.” On the floor, Smith and other opponents of the amendment pushed back hard on the race question, as Senators sparred over old wounds and scars left by the Fifteenth Amendment and Reconstruction. 'Those of us from the South, where the preponderance of the Negro vote jeopardized our civilization, have maintained that the fifteenth amendment was a crime against our civilization,' Smith said. 'The Senator knows full well that the fifteenth amendment embodied the color question,' said Sen. Irvine Lenroot, a Republican from Wisconsin, 'the Senator knows just as well that there is no color question at all embodied in this amendment. It relates only to sex.' 'The discussion here upon the floor yesterday makes it perfectly apparent that in part at least, in a certain section of this country, this proposed amendment will be a dead letter,' acknowledged Sen. James Wadsworth, a Republican from New York. Wadsworth and others were proven correct, as it took many years for black Americans to get around the poll tax and other means of stopping them from voting. “Oh, the white man votes because you are careful to apply tests which do not apply to the white man,' Senator William Borah, a Republican of Idaho, said to Senators from the South. 'You pick out those tests which exclude the Negro and write them into your law, and that excludes the Negro.' In an exchange with Senator John Williams, a Mississippi Democrat, Borah said, “the Negro does not vote (in the South) because he is black. That is the only crime which he has committed.” Just before the final vote in the Senate, Democrat Edward Gay of Louisiana rose on the Senate floor, making one last call to allow the states to have the final say on whether women should vote. 'I predict that there are 13 States that will never ratify the amendment which the Congress of the United State is about to present to the American people,' Gay said. Gay was wrong, as the amendment was ratified 14 months later in August of 1920. But it took years for many southern states to ratify the 19th Amendment to the Constitution: + Virginia - February 21, 1952 + Alabama - September 8, 1953 + Florida - May 13, 1969 + South Carolina - July 1, 1969 + Georgia - February 20, 1970 + Louisiana - June 11, 1970 + North Carolina - May 6, 1971 + Mississippi - March 22, 1984