Donald Trump’s presidency may be in a backlash depending on what he does next.
His letdown to convert the core campaign promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare even with a GOP monopoly on power in Washington has left the White House spinning.
Trump and his advisers must now regroup and try to figure out how to avoid another legislative fiasco on their next big issue, tax reform. They will do so knowing that a second failure could curb his presidency.
Once, Trump’s aides viewed health care reform, presumably an easy early win, as a way to deliver momentum to his presidency and to build toward more sweeping change picked from his ambitious agenda but the effort’s disgraceful defeat Friday has severely weakened the President, electrified Democrats and left Trump’s declarations that he is the ultimate dealmaker who can change Washington looking increasingly hollow.
Trump surprised some of those close to him with his reaction to Friday’s health care collapse. He did not vent or rage. Instead in the Oval Office afterward Trump was “sullen and quiet” as he contemplated his first blow, dealt by the Washington swamp he had vowed to drain, one insider source said.
The President was well aware he failed to deliver on an issue that stirs the passions of his political base. He was also mindful that the health care disaster would make his quest to tackle a behemoth tax package that much more difficult, the source said.
Indeed, the early failure means that hundreds of billions of dollars in federal savings that the White House had earmarked to bankroll a tax code overhaul are nowhere to be seen.
“It makes everything harder moving forward,” one Trump adviser said.
Another senior administration official told CNN’s Gloria Borger that tax reform could now have to be a “smaller version,” than originally planned and the problem would be explaining to the public that because the repeal of Obamacare didn’t happen, there’s “a trillion dollars less to deal with.”
Already casting an eye toward the midterm elections, which typically hurt the President’s own party, some of Trump’s advisers fear Obamacare’s underdog survival will provide a rallying point for their political foes.
“Democrats will feel emboldened and their base will feel emboldened,” a senior administration official said.