Trump Just Crippled His Legislative Agenda

Writing in the Washington Post, James Hohmann makes a rather obvious point about the fallout from President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

Another significant repercussion: Every piece of Trump’s agenda just became harder to get through Congress. Democrats will be less inclined than ever to work with this president, and the liberal base will become even less tolerant of red state incumbents collaborating with him. It’s going to be really hard to get to 60 votes for anything Trump wants for a while.

Also noted in that article is the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee has requested financial records on Trump and Trump associates from the Treasury Department and that the Ranking Member of that committee, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, plans on holding up all Trump nominees until he’s gets the information he seeks. That should be lumped together with the Senate Democrats’ decision this morning to invoke the two-hour rule to curtail the majority’s ability to hold committee hearings.

Senate committee business shut down by noon Wednesday after Democrats invoked the two-hour rule, which prevents committee hearings from lasting more than two hours after the Senate convenes.

Which, of course, is probably a precursor for this:

The boldest, most extreme step Democrats could take is to slow Senate business to a crawl. They could refuse to allow consideration of any legislation or nominees awaiting confirmation votes until Trump agrees to appoint a special prosecutor. And with dozens of Trump administration nominees awaiting confirmation hearings or up-or-down votes on the Senate floor, such a move would likely hamper executive branch agencies that now lack political leadership.

This wouldn’t exactly be payback to the Republicans since they utilized similar obstruction for no other reason than to slow Obama’s agenda, but it would be familiar and have the same kind of effect. There are only so many legislative hours in the day and so many legislative days on the calendar. If the Democrats object to everything, they can put Trump’s entire congressional agenda at grave risk.

The way the Republicans gamed out this year’s legislative agenda requires them to achieve certain objectives before they can move on to the next task, especially for elements that they hope to do through the budget reconciliation process that only requires fifty, rather than sixty, votes. That effort appeared to be failing before Trump initiated a constitutional crisis, and it was looking more and more like he’d have to rethink his strategy and cater it to more bipartisan goals that can pass with Democratic support. I was doubtful that he’d figure this out in time or that he could implement that kind of pivot, but now he’s got an even more implacable opposition that smells blood and he’s going to have less time to move things through Congress with or without them.

Let me put it this way. If Trump’s only concern is political survival, he must be more imperiled than we realize. And firing Comey makes a certain kind of sense if the peril is already approaching the door, but it looks like a desperation move that has already further weakened Trump and his ability to deliver anything through Congress.

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