Trump v. Republican Congress (1)

We’re in the mutual accommodation phase of the relationship between Donald Trump and the Republican majorities in the two houses of Congress.  The House Republicans have just finished a retreat at which Trump appeared, and the party’s Congressional leaders are declaring themselves all on the same page.  Said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “We have laid out a game plan through the August recess that we want to try to accomplish. We want to try to stick to that plan.”

There certainly are issues where the election campaigns showed Trump to have one agenda and the Republican Congressional leadership a quite different agenda.  Take Russia, for example: friend or foe?  Take trade: more trade barriers or more openness?  Changes in social security? An infrastructure bill?  Etc.

In this mutual accommodation phase, Republican Congressional leaders are mostly deferring to Trump as their leader.  At the same time, Trump is allowing Congressional action on issues where they have strong inclinations but he doesn’t much care.  There doesn’t seem to be any other way to read the swift action approving draconian bans on public funding for abortion or family planning anywhere in the world.  Trump is prepared to go along, but the initiative comes from Mike Pence (a longtime Congressional activist on the issue) and the Republican leaders.

How long can this mutual accommodation last?  So far they haven’t had to wrestle with an issue where their two agendas come into conflict.  Stay tuned.

***

Update, next morning.  Just after I posted this, conflict arose between Trump and Republican members of Congress over the payment plan for the wall on the U.S. Mexico Border.  Perhaps the period of mutual accommodation won’t be very long at all.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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