GOP Congress adjourns for summer recess with skimpy record to boast about

After Labor Day conservative lawmakers are likely to forgo more healthcare debate to take up tax reform and two legislative housekeeping musts

Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s attempts to pass a healthcare reform measure stalled in the Senate. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Seven months after Republicans were handed control of Congress and the White House, Donald Trump and the Congressional GOP left Washington this week without yet achieving a single major legislative victory.

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard.

Trump boasted that he would repeal Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare law “immediately” after taking office as president. After seven years of Republican promises to repeal Obamacare, GOP lawmakers, too, believed the effort would be seamless and planned to spend only a few weeks on repealing the statute before turning to tax reform and an infrastructure package.

But the Republicans’ repeal effort turned into a messy, months-long slog with several fits and starts, overwhelming their party’s legislative agenda before it ultimately collapsed last week on the Senate floor. This failure leaves GOP lawmakers with no obvious accomplishments to showcase to constituents over their August recess.

Asked last month how the GOP would justify a failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, an issue that helped fuel its electoral successes, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell offered: “Well, we have a new Supreme Court justice.”

He added that Republicans have unwound more than a dozen regulations enacted during the Obama era, using an obscure process called the Congressional Review Act.

The Supreme Court confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, a staunch conservative and ideological heir to Antonin Scalia, was especially sweet for McConnell. The Kentucky Republican had gambled during the presidential campaign that an open seat on the high court would motivate GOP voters, and it worked.

For nearly a year McConnell had refused to hold hearings on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Democrats saw the seat as “stolen” and withheld support from Gorsuch. So to enable his confirmation, McConnell had to eliminate a Senate rule requiring a 60-vote threshold on high-court nominees.

But there has been no success for the GOP on the legislative priorities its candidates promised to achieve if elected.

“We’ll be moving onto tax reform, infrastructure – there’s much work left to be done for the American people,” McConnell told reporters after a false start…

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