Lawmakers have scattered for their summer recess, leaving behind a slim record of achievements and a steaming President Donald Trump. The president is angry about what the Republican-led Congress couldn’t do — repeal Obamacare — as well as one of the few things it did: approve a Russia sanctions bill he detests.
So Republican senators leave Washington with simmering tensions between them and the White House now out in public for all to see. They’ll face voters back home who have cause for frustration about an unproductive Congress led by a party given over to infighting.
Lamenting poor relations with Russia, Trump sniped over Twitter on Thursday, “You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!”
“I was shocked by that,” responded Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who is not one for criticizing Trump publicly. “Relations with Russia are in a bad place, and it’s entirely because of Vladimir Putin, it’s not because of Congress.”
Overall, as Republicans took stock of the past seven months of control of the House and Senate under the Trump administration, the mood was glum. The House began its summer recess last week, but as senators rushed for the exits Thursday they were still pointing to the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as their signal success, even though that happened back in April.
Last week’s failure of their Obamacare repeal efforts after seven years of ardent campaign promises still stung. And Republicans have also failed to make much progress on other marquee agenda items, like a tax overhaul or an infrastructure bill, while falling behind on the annual spending bills needed to keep the lights on in government. A fight on that looms this fall or winter, along with the threat of a government shutdown if Trump presses for money for his border wall that Democrats are certain to reject.
“We’ve got to do better,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican.
In a final burst of action Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a Food and Drug Administration funding bill, and agreed to more than 60 Trump administration nominees, more executive branch nominations in a single day than the Senate had approved all year to date. Republicans have bitterly blamed Democrats’ foot-dragging on nominees for many of their problems, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky heralded Thursday’s actions as “an important step towards filling critical roles throughout the administration.”