A Change in Strategy and Some Leadership From the White House

For seven long years the Republicans campaigned on undoing the things that President Obama had put in place.  The centerpiece of that campaign was repealing ObamaCare.  Then in 2016 the Republicans maintained control of the Senate and House and in a miracle election (What Happened) they defeated Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ascended to the White House.  Now Republicans no longer had to fear the veto pen and they were poised to govern.  But a funny thing happened along the way to the Capitol.  They forgot that they would have to work together or the Democrats would pick them apart.

In the House they floundered around and could not come up with a replacement bill that would pass muster and in the Senate they were using Reconciliation so they would not have to face the 60 vote test.  And then they thought they had it done.  Sen. John McCain had flown back from Arizona where he was undergoing cancer treatments and he was to be the deciding vote.  So there he was on the floor of the Senate and in typical John McCain fashion he relished the limelight.  He stood near the well of the Senate floor and had his hand stretched out.  This was to the vote that took down ObamaCare but suddenly he turned his thumb down.  Republicans were shocked and the defeat seemed to suck the air out of the party.  I would tell them they should have expected nothing less from John McCain who has thwarted the party for years during his time in the Senate.

Over in the House nothing else was getting done because the caucus was fractured with Speaker Ryan trying to muster votes and those on the far right balking at everything he suggested.  They are the purists who believe they are right and any attempt to compromise to get something done would be an affront to their conservatism and principles.

At the White House the shake up were coming (see my previous blog reports on predicting this) and a new sheriff was in town.  John Kelly came over from Homeland Security and immediately put some structure and discipline into the White House staff.  One by one the hard liners started to fall by the wayside and even such stalwarts as Steve Bannon were shown the door.  No longer could they walk around a Chief of Staff and go right to the President.  There was a chain of command, something all of us that have served in the military understand, and Gen. Kelly was enforcing that chain.

This past week we have seen what these changes mean.  On the debt ceiling and keeping the government running the Republicans could not agree on a plan and so President Trump opted to deal with the Democrats.  Where Republicans were offering a debt ceiling increase that would take them past the mid-term elections there was no guarantee that the far right of the caucus would vote for the deal.  The Democrats offered a three-month extension and Republicans countered with a six-month deal but again there was no assurance it could pass.  Trump was forced to take the shorter term because he could not afford an embarrassing defeat by his own party again.

Earlier President Trump had announced that he would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and would delay that end by six months to allow Congress to take the action needed.   Of course this sent the left into a tizzy and story after story decried this “heartless” decision.   But if you step back and look at the facts you will see he was doing what the law required.  Just about every constitutional scholar agreed that the Executive Order by President Obama lacked the authority to do what he did.  There were marches around the nation demanding that Trump back down.  These people marching have no respect for the law.  They want the law to be what they want it to be that day.  I have written previously if you start accepting the illegal Executive Orders of one President then you have to accept them from all Presidents.  Just because you like a particular one does not give it standing in the law.

What Trump did was to hand the ball back to the Congress and tell them to do their job.  He was delaying any action on his part to give them the time to act.  Of course this opened the door for the Democrats to come forward and try to negotiate a deal.  So at a dinner with Democrats last night the President began to make a deal.  In the late of the night the Democrats started crowing about how they had saved the Dreamers and cut a deal that would include much tougher border security.  It was not a wall but some people view the wall as a metaphor while other want to actually see a physical wall.  Personally I am not sure you need a “wall” if you have tougher enforcement and people know they will be deported if they enter illegally.  We have witnessed as major drop in the number of people crossing the border illegally since Trump took office because of the threat to be deported. Since most of them pay a people smuggler up to $5000 to get them across they are less willing to pay that exorbitant amount of money without some assurance they can stay.

By morning the conservative backlash was hitting back at this “deal” with the Democrats and President Trump waked it back saying there was no firm deal in place.  But by late morning the White House was admitting the framework of a deal was being created but it was not what the Democrats were saying it contained.  Trump was saying that the deal would allow Dreamers to stay in the United States but it was not amnesty and did not contain any provision to put them on a path to citizenship.  Democrats responded by saying it most certainly did contain language that would create a pathway to citizenship.  This is crucial to Democrats since they believe the key to success in future election is the Hispanic vote.  The more that can become citizens the more votes they will gather.

This put the Republican leadership in a bind and they quickly responded by making it clear that any bill would have to pass a Republican House and Senate.  That 60 vote rule the Democrats have been using so deftly in the Senate could backfire on them.  Politically I think this what they are hoping will happen so they can blame it all of the Republicans in Congress and reap the benefit in the mid-term elections.

In a news conference earlier today Speaker Paul Ryan said the following:  I think the president understands he has to work with the congressional majorities to get any kind of legislative solution”.  Over in the Senate Mitch McConnell was more tactful and said “As Congress debates the best ways to address illegal immigration through strong border security and interior enforcement, DACA should be part of those discussions. We look forward to receiving the Trump administration’s legislative proposal as we continue our work on these issues.”

Now I view all of these actions as progress.  What we see happening is both parties becoming engaged in the process.  This is how Congress should work.  Whether you like Trump or not he is actually demonstrating some leadership by putting out his proposals and then letting both parties have a say.  This might actually force members of Congress to talk to each other and arrive at a compromise on some important issues. This might actually make a major issue like tax reform possible.  Trump even had a dinner on this issue this week where he had three Democrats and three Republicans sit down with him and talk about tax reform.

The media won’t give him any credit but anyone watching from the outside can see this happening.  And this would never have happened with the previous staff leadership in the White House.

Once again, if you have any comments I encourage you to make them in the comments section.  Don’t be bashful.  Your thoughts are every bit as important as mine or anyone else’s.

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