America’s senators scattered to the winds for their summer recess on Thursday, leaving behind a big unfinished agenda and a peeved president.
The chief executive has lambasted lawmakers for failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, for their investigations into Russia and his campaign, for their arcane voting rules, and for passing sanctions legislation against Russia.
He took a parting shot in a tweet Thursday morning, saying “You can thank Congress” for a US-Russia relationship that is at an “all-time & very dangerous low.”
President Trump may think his problem is with members of Congress and the way they run things. In one sense, the decisions and behaviors of individuals in Washington – not least, himself – account for his threadbare legislative accomplishments, despite Republican control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
But in the broadest sense, the resistance he’s encountering is due to America’s system of governance. The story of his early presidency might easily be called “Donald Trump meets the Founding Fathers,” as a beginner politician runs up against the checks and balances that are designed to prevent tyranny and forge consensus.
Trump and his team are “surprised at the intransigence and resistance they’re meeting, when in fact, every other president has met them,” says Don Ritchie, former Senate historian. This outsider White House “didn’t anticipate these things because they hadn’t experienced these things,” as former governors or legislators, like other presidents and senior White House officials.
During the honeymoon phase of a new administration, presidents can make significant headway. Barack Obama and George W. Bush scored some major legislative wins, when their parties, too, controlled both the House and Senate.
By the first August recess, a Democratic Congress had passed President Obama’s big economic stimulus package, confirmed a Supreme Court justice, and was deep into the policy weeds of health care, which would become law early the next year. In his first year, President Bush got a $1.35 trillion tax cut and Congress passed landmark education reform with bipartisan support.
But Trump’s marriage with the GOP has been rocky from the start.
He has been able to appoint a Supreme Court justice – a biggie – and roll back 14 Obama-era regulations, which Republicans say has helped to fuel the stock market to a record high. Still repeal-and-replace failed, the president’s…