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100 Days of Trump: GOP establishment and Democrats are Trump’s foes, not conservatives

Up until last Friday, the whole notion of Donald Trump potentially wanting to work with Democrats to move his agenda forward seemed absurd. After all, members of the minority party questioned every aspect of his character during last year’s campaign, suggesting he was a sexist, racist, misogynist, you name it -- every kind of “ist” there is.

The Democrats’ tone didn’t improve after Trump won the election either, with nearly all party loyalists rejecting Trump tweethis attempts to reach out to them together with offers of “working together” to “unite the country.”

Instead Democrats organized efforts to convince the Electoral College to vote for John Kasich; over five dozen of them boycotted his inauguration; and Democrat Senators have made a mockery of the confirmation process for Trump’s cabinet appointments from day one (not to mention last week’s debacle with Judge Neil Gorsuch).

Any rational person would know there’re no Democrat “friends” there for Trump.

Still, some people close to the president are claiming he’s so angry at conservatives in the Freedom Caucus for sinking Paul Ryan’s healthcare bill that he’s contemplating the unthinkable: asking Democrats to help him pass the big items on his agenda list from here on out.

Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner wrote, “After the Freedom Caucus turned the 126-page American Health Care Act into a smoking heap of ashes, the White House started considering their own scorched-earth legislative strategy. To outflank those entrenched conservatives, Trump's administration now seems ready to reach across the aisle.

“Reince Priebus said as much yesterday (Sunday), completely dashing lingering hopes of unifying the Republican Party. ‘This president isn't going to be a partisan president,’ the White House chief of staff insisted on Fox News over the weekend, before floating the idea of ‘potentially getting a few moderate Democrats on board.’”

Until reading this I hadn’t heard about Priebus saying such a thing but Trump has been making his feelings known concerning the Freedom Caucus for several days now on Twitter.

On Monday evening Trump tweeted, “The Republican House Freedom Caucus was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. After so many bad years they were ready for a win!

All of this conservative bashing sounds kind of fishy, especially coming from the mouth of Priebus, who apparently put Trump up to tweeting out his initial pokes at the Freedom Caucus. As the longtime head of the Republican National Committee and therefore one of the preeminent GOP establishment figures in Washington, Priebus has seen his share of non-conservative big government Republican planks reduced to splinters under the axe of the Freedom Caucus.

Only this time the Freedom Caucus did Trump and everyone else a favor by serving as the public face of the opposition to Ryancare. It’s impossible to know what the true political fallout would have been if the bill had passed (in the Senate as well) and Trump signed it. Then the Republicans would own the impending healthcare disaster, which everyone (except for the Democrats) seems to agree is coming.

Reality shows there were just as many moderates opposed to the bill last week; but the Freedom Caucus took the blame – at least publicly. I speculate Trump still understands where his base of power lies and he’s trying to steer the public’s attention away from his real views.

Not everything is as it seems. Donald Trump doesn’t like losing. Kind of like Fonzie (on Happy Days) used to have trouble uttering the word “sorry” I bet the president can’t even get himself to say the words “I lost” when looking in a mirror.

Trump didn’t get where he is today without taking the positives from even a bad situation and turning them around to make it seem like he won. He certainly did so when talking to the press last Friday after Ryan pulled the bill. Trump put blame where it really belongs – on the Democrats who passed Obamacare in the first place and are now staying the heck away from every attempt to do something about it.

That includes any overtures Trump would supposedly make to work with them on an Obamacare fix or other important issues.

Caitlin Huey-Burns of Real Clear Politics reported, “The Trump administration, burned by its own party on its first major piece of legislation, has started to make a pitch for bipartisanship, suggesting the president is now interested in working across the aisle to secure votes on top agenda items such as tax reform.

“But the interest is not mutual. And for now, at least, congressional Democrats see little incentive in working with President Trump, whose approval rating has declined further in recent days.

“Instead, the GOP's failure last week on its own health care bill has emboldened Democrats who unified against it.”

In other words, the partisan divide is only getting worse.

Huey-Burns’ article indicates Trump won 12 districts with Democrat representatives last November. This would be the logical recruiting ground for the president to try and find some “moderate” Democrats to join his cause. But they simply don’t exist anymore.

By saying he’s open to working with Democrats Trump is most likely just trying to appear above party and ideology. But that doesn’t mean the Democrats are sharing the same “let’s get along” feelings. If not one of them was willing to even consider the wishy-washy Obamacare-retaining GOP Ryancare bill, what does that tell you about the future prospects of getting something “bipartisan” accomplished?

Regardless of outward appearances, Trump is still surrounded by reliable conservatives on the inside providing him counsel. Vice President Mike Pence is a constant presence as are advisers Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. These principled conservatives aren’t about to fold up their tent and pitch it across the aisle in Democrat-land where Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and company are waiting to assign them a plot of quicksand for the gesture.

They’re probably also passing out “I’m out to get him” buttons as a prelude to impeachment.

Besides, conservatives are still around and will be watching the establishment trying to ensure Republicans keep their promises.

Rebecca Berg of Real Clear Politics reported, “If conservative groups wondered what role they would fill in Trump’s administration, the health care fight was instructive, showcasing them as a resilient, powerful contingent. It marked a ‘defining moment’ for conservative groups, said Alyssa Farah, spokesperson for the House Freedom Caucus, sending a clear signal that its members would not be silenced or sidelined with a Republican president in charge.

“The moment also reaffirmed an alliance that could frustrate future efforts by the president and Republican leaders, with the groups enabling and emboldening ultra-conservative lawmakers to derail major consensus legislation that does not meet their policy standards.”

Berg’s article makes such efforts sound like a bad thing. But in the world of politics consensus is made from sharing a set of principles and then acting on them. President Trump knows his real best friends are in the Freedom Caucus – and they were the ones who supported him when the establishment threated to bail several times during last year’s campaign.

Conservative solutions work when given the chance and they can use a first-class “deal-making” salesman -- like Donald Trump -- to sell them. Let the “moderates” bend for a change.

Republicans’ next move should focus on what voters care about the most

Imagine if you will a group of establishment Republicans sitting in a conference room with Paul Ryan seated at the head of the table at one end and Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus at the other.

The first item on the meeting agenda reads, “What next?”

Ryan goes around the table asking each member present what should be the next thing Republicans take on after the squabbling and finger-pointing catastrophe of Ryancare. As the last one to speak, Priebus answers “whatever the president says it should be.”

If there are 15 politicians present you might get the standard political answers, all intended to make themselves and the party look good. But in reality, there’s only one thing Republicans should be focusing on now – and Trump already knows it.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner wrote, “What will President Trump do after the Obamacare debacle? For 48 hours, some Hill Republicans — and Trump himself — spoke as if the president and the GOP could smoothly, seamlessly, and swiftly pivot to tax reform. Then, Monday night, came an Axios report that Trump might choose to pursue an infrastructure bill — the only measure with even a hope of some Democratic support — at the same time as tax reform.

“Whatever the final decision, Trump and Hill Republicans are in danger of failing again if they do not direct their every action toward the creation of jobs and an increase in wages. That's why Trump won the presidency, and it is what voters expect of him.”

In his article York cites a number of polls suggesting that even though more Americans are seeing the economy as improving than last year there are still about two-thirds who indicated things aren’t getting better in their lives. That’s a big number and one that can’t go unaddressed in the next round of political fights.

Tax reform would appear to be the default issue since it’s something Trump talked a lot about during the campaign and is also heavily related to jobs and the economy. But even when it comes to cutting taxes there is likely to be some disagreement among Republicans, with “moderates” likely favoring rate cuts for individuals and conservatives and libertarians focusing hard on measures promoting economic growth.

Then there’s the issue of the “border tax” that Trump has said he likes which would increase the costs of imports – and therefore are theoretically anti-consumer.

There are also rumors some Republicans are pushing for more of a concentration on infrastructure, an issue that’s seen as a unanimity builder. But if there’s another big pork-filled monstrosity like Obama’s 2009 shovel-ready “stimulus” plan, there’s likely to be significant opposition from both sides of the aisle.

Finding consensus in the Republican caucus is going to be priority number one. Paul Ryan and the establishment’s typical solutions don’t seem like a good fit here. This is one issue that Trump would need to take the lead seeing as he’s a lifelong developer who ran on a platform of knowing how to create jobs and “dream big.”

Trump has already shown an inclination towards reducing government waste (such as convincing Boeing to slash the price of the new Air Force One, or cutting billions in waste from military purchases). He will need all his best powers of persuasion to hammer out a jobs bill that will please everyone without exploding the federal deficit.

There’s a lot of work ahead. Jobs will be on the mind of everyone.

By show of hands, how many of you Democrats will vote for cloture?

We’re now five days away from a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, a result that is likely to go Gorsuch’s way because of the Republican majority on the committee.

Beyond that, it’s certainly beginning to look like there will be a “nuclear” showdown on the final vote late next week.

Seung Min Kim and Elana Schor of Politico report, “Senior Democratic sources are now increasingly confident that Gorsuch can’t clear a filibuster, saying his ceiling is likely mid- to upper-50s on the key procedural vote. That would mark the first successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee since Abe Fortas for chief justice in the 1960s…

“If Democrats successfully filibuster Gorsuch, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has heavily telegraphed that he will invoke the so-called nuclear option to unilaterally change Senate rules with a simple majority vote. And Republicans are confident they’ll have the votes to do it, even as wary as many senators are about forever altering the deliberative nature of the chamber.”

There appear to be only a few senators left who give a hoot about the “deliberative nature of the chamber” because the Democrats have become so ridiculous in the recent past that any emotion is long gone.

Whatever inkling President Trump may have to work with Democrats to move his agenda forward may easily disappear within a matter of days when the minority party senators led by the remorseless Chuck Schumer make a public spectacle over the simple matter of confirming a “well qualified” (Gorsuch’s ABA rating) nominee to the Supreme Court.

Even the so-called red state Democrats are coming out in support of filibustering Gorsuch, demonstrating once again that threats of political blowback aren’t enough to knock Democrats off their lofty arrogant perches to embrace common sense.

Democrat excuses for opposing Gorsuch continue to include the Republicans’ treatment of Obama’s lame duck appointee (Merrick Garland) last year and the assertion that Gorsuch refused to answer their questions during his hearings last week.

Translation: Gorsuch didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.

As far as Garland goes, how long are Democrats planning to use him as a crutch to oppose Court nominations? Will they still be talking about this months or years from now when Trump has another appointment?

With the nuclear option deployed, future Court nominations and confirmations are likely to be a simple matter of whichever party holds the Senate majority at the time. As I’ve argued a lot lately, judicial confirmations should be an issue in every Senate campaign, not just during presidential elections every four years.

Americans don’t want legislating from the bench – and that’s what they’ll get if Democrats are in charge of advancing nominations and/or confirming judges.

On the other hand, should Republicans fail to vote for the nuclear option and in essence hand Democrats perhaps the most undeserved political victory in recent memory – defeating Judge Gorsuch’s nomination – the gloves will come completely off.

President Trump will be furious – not only with the Republican defectors but also with the Democrats. This could boil down to one of the nastiest partisan fights in Congress ever. Should Gorsuch fail to be confirmed, we ain’t seen nothing yet in terms of how ugly things can get.

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