WHITE HOUSE —
President Donald Trump is set to move on this week after suffering the worst defeat of his young presidency. With the words “repeal and replace Obamacare” still ringing in voters ears, Trump’s loudest campaign promise crashed when the Republican majority in Congress proved incapable of taking the first legislative step to put an alternative plan in place.
“I’m disappointed,” the president said Friday after it became clear there were not enough Republican votes to move forward on a replacement bill. “I’m a little surprised, to be honest with you. We really had it. It was pretty much there within grasp.”
By Sunday, however, Trump was venting his frustration on Twitter, blaming conservative Republican groups who had urged defeat of the bill. He tweeted, “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, on "Fox News Sunday," attempted to quash prominent news reports that Trump was blaming him and House Speaker Paul Ryan for the defeat. “I’m not in any trouble,” he said. “ This is the work of gossip hounds,” he told host Chris Wallace.
Priebus defended Ryan, saying, “He thought Paul Ryan worked really hard. He [Trump] thinks Paul Ryan is a great speaker of the House”. Rep. Mark Meadows, head of the conservative Freedom Caucus faction of the Republican Party, told ABC’s "This Week program," “There are no conversations going on right now with regard to replacing” Ryan.
Nevertheless, Washington’s journalists and myriad political observers were merciless, questioning whether the Republican party led by Trump and Ryan was capable of governing. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s critique was titled “Trump’s Triumph of Incompetence.” CNN anchor Dana Bash, opened her Sunday discussion program “State of the Union,” with a one-word summary. “Dysfunctional”.
Priebus suggested the president’s legislative strategy going forward would be to work toward the center for support on health care. “It would be nice to get some Democrats on board, but at the end of the day I believe” it’s time for the [Republican] party to start governing.”
Administration officials signaled Sunday that Trump would focus this week on rolling back Obama era environmental regulations, including the Clean Power Plan. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt told "This Week" the president would sign an Energy Independence Executive Order as early as Tuesday." The EPA chief said the order is intended to “make sure that we have a pro-growth and pro-environment approach to how we do regulation in this country."
Another item high on Trump’s agenda is tax reform. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the news site Axios Friday that he has been overseeing the administration's tax reform bill for the past two months. He said the bill would include proposals to cut individual and corporate taxes. "Our primary focus is a tax cut for the middle income [earners] and not at the top."
Mnuchin declined to say what corporate tax rate would be proposed, other than it will be "a lot lower" than the current rate of 35 percent. The former Wall Street banker and hedge fund manager said the president's tax plan would be introduced soon and hopes it will win congressional approval as early as August.