Trump Waddles Towards September’s Thresher Blades

One week ago, I wrote a piece called September Will Be a Meat Grinder in which I explained (once again) that the Republicans will need to, among other things, avoid a government shutdown, raise the borrowing limit, and pass a new budget with specific tax-related reconciliation directives if they want to avoid a filibuster and pass tax reform with a mere fifty Senate votes. Today, I read this at Axios:

The Hill agenda for September is punishing, with colossal fights on debt limit, government funding to avoid a shutdown, and the budget (to provide a reconciliation vehicle for a tax overhaul). Steve Bannon called it the “meat-grinder” month.

Maybe Steve Bannon did call it “the ‘meat-grinder’ month.” All I know is that I didn’t get the phrasing from him. In fact, the first reporting I saw accurately describing how the budget and reconciliation need to work for tax reform came from the New York Times two days after my piece.

The president wants to push through a tax overhaul by year’s end, but first Republicans must approve a budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 to trigger special procedures that would allow the package to pass the Senate with only 51 votes, instead of the 60 required for most legislation.

And that’s the same piece that first reported on Bannon talking about September as a meat-grinder:

Before his exit, Mr. Bannon repeatedly warned Mr. Trump and John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, that September could be the breaking point for the Trump presidency — “a total meat grinder,” Mr. Bannon told them.

So, either some strange kismet and coincidence were involved here, my words were mixed up and plagiarized, or I’m just ahead of the game. To be clear about the meaning of my analogy, I didn’t intend it the way John Godfrey Saxe did when he said “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” What’s going in the top of the meat-grinder next month isn’t a bunch of proposed laws, but the Trump administration itself. The rest of the Axios fragment seems to borrow from me on that point, too.

The Hill agenda for September is punishing, with colossal fights on debt limit, government funding to avoid a shutdown, and the budget (to provide a reconciliation vehicle for a tax overhaul). Steve Bannon called it the “meat-grinder” month.

These fights will require complex tradeoffs, with the House and Senate leadership in the driver’s seat. So the path to even getting to a tax reform bill is long and precarious. And Trump has little political capital outside his shrinking base.

There is one original insight from the Axios piece, though, and that pertains to the president’s state of mind:

President Trump’s understaffed, self-conscious administration faces a cascade of crises and heavy lifts this fall that it’s ill-equipped to shoulder simultaneously:

What Trump is thinking, per a source: “The president’s state of mind is that he is doing fine, and the media/establishment are in denial.”

It’s like pulling teeth to get the media/establishment to accurately report the battlefield for September and the true scale of Trump’s challenges, so I should perhaps be a little forgiving if Trump doesn’t understand the odds against him. But I am not in a forgiving mood and the most I can muster is a little gratitude that the president is waddling so confidently into the thresher blades.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.