Donald Trump
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

It kind of makes me laugh when people pretend that the Republicans in Congress need their numbers to add up in order to pass legislation. Still, the CBO says that the House bill to repeal Obamacare would create substantial savings. And, even if most of those savings would immediately be squandered on giving rich people a tax cut, the GOP is relying on the extra money to pass tax reform that will—you guessed it—give rich people more tax cuts.

As a result, GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who sits on the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Committee on the Budget, and the Committee on Finance, says that if the health care bill fails, the Republicans “won’t be doing any tax revision.”

This is presumably because there are enough budget hawks in the Republican Party that they can’t pass deficit-driven trickle-down economic policies, but that’s really something that remains to be seen. If the hangup is nothing more than budgetary chicanery that is unconvincing even to post-factual Freedom Caucus members, I’m not so sure it’s a fatal obstacle. Or, at least, they’ll be more inclined to go deeply into debt to finance tax reform than they would be to finance Trump’s infrastructure plan or education reforms.

In any case, the narrative is going around that Trump’s entire agenda will be imperiled if the congressional GOP doesn’t stop squabbling and get on with stripping health insurance from 24 million people. But, consider how imperiled his agenda is right now, and pay special attention to who is to blame for that.

As a candidate for president, Trump promised that he would work with Congress to pass legislation that would dramatically cut taxes, spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investments, significantly expand school choice and make it easier to afford child care. And he promised he would get started on all that — and six other pieces of legislation — in his first 100 days, according to a “Contract with the American Voter” released shortly before Election Day.

Now past the 50-day mark, only one of those bills — the House GOP health-care plan — has been introduced…

…Other promised 100-day bills included a sweeping crackdown on immigration, including a southern border wall paid for by Mexico; a new system of tariffs to discourage companies from relocating abroad; and reforms aimed at reducing “the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.” No such measures have been introduced.

As far as I can tell, the U.S. Senate isn’t inclined to enact Trump’s tariff plan and they don’t seem too keen on paying for the Mexican border wall since the Mexicans were supposed to pony up for that. The immigration crackdown is being done by executive order, and that’s tied up in court. And I haven’t heard a peep about a lobbying or ethics bill.

It’s not like the Senate Democrats are filibustering these bills. The bills don’t yet exist. And they’ll need 60 votes in the Senate, which means that at least 8 Democratic senators will have to support Trump’s plans. So far, though, the Democrats are showing no signs of cracking their resistance.

The only reason the health care bill is moving at all (and it really isn’t) is because it’s going through a special budget reconciliation process that limits changes to the bill and makes it possible to pass with only 51 votes in the Senate. Trump has made the opposite of progress in convincing red state Democratic senators to support any part of his agenda. At best, he might get some of their votes for his Supreme Court nominee.

So, what’s really imperiling Trump’s agenda isn’t the hostility nearly all people have for his health care bill. It’s that he’s been slow to introduce his agenda and he’s done absolutely nothing to line up support for it in the Senate.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at