Without even enough Senate Republican support for a “clean repeal” of Obamacare, this Congress is on its way to historical levels of getting nothing done. So is the ‘Resistance’ winning? And will the divided GOP endanger President Donald Trump’s 2020 chances?
Another U.S. civil war may not be just around the corner, but then again, just imagine the status quo for another 10 years. Congress is on pace to pass the least number of bills in 164 years, David Faris, associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University, wrote Tuesday in The Week. As Washington, D.C. revels in permanent division and another “lesser of two evils” 2020 election cycle creeps into view, something’s got to give.
Immediately following the late Monday evening announcement that the Obamacare “repeal and replace” strategy would be split into two separate bills, many Republican voters expressed optimism that Congress may actually get something done. Or, rather, undone. But…
Nope! Despite Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) all being on the same page for a “clean repeal” and ready to hear bipartisan “replacement” proposals, there were at least three other GOP voices already shutting down the entire plot.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia all came out Tuesday against that proposal, with fellow Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas telling NPR that there were “five or six” total Republicans who opposed separating repeal and replace.
An inactive Congress certainly has its benefits, but a pendulum swings hardest from either extreme. As opposed to former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush signing a “jobs” bill and a tax decrease by this time in 2009 and 2001, respectively, Trump has signed mostly symbolic bills. The current GOP-led Congress has successfully snipped away some administrative regulations in 14 signed bills, but there are 238 House-passed bills the Senate has yet to take up, with just a fraction having any shot at advancing, according to Faris at The Week.
If it’s too much to draw parallels with the Civil War and today’s polarized politics, perhaps it could be more accurately stated that the U.S. is already in a slow-motion civil war. The Republicans’ control of Congress and the White House, which they haven’t had since 2006, could be lost in 2018 and 2020, notwithstanding a seemingly unfocused Democratic Party.
Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich warned in a Fox News interview Monday that if, by Thanksgiving, the GOP doesn’t pass “a very large tax cut, retroactively designed back to January 1,” there will be “real danger of having Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019.”
Trump also stands to lose from an inactive Congress, as he campaigned to be a D.C. dealmaker. But it remains to be seen how much blame Republican voters will assign to Trump, who won support as an outsider during the 2016 primary.
Whether or not Trump maintains his base may not matter, anyway. A poll released Tuesday by the Washington Post and ABC News finds independents highly disapprove of the job the president is doing. Those non-affiliated voters decide elections, so when 59 percent strongly or somewhat disapprove of Trump — while just 32 percent approve — the base of Trump’s support may become less relevant come campaign season.
That doesn’t mean anyone regrets not voting for Hillary Clinton, by the way. A poll by Bloomberg released Tuesday shows Clinton’s favorability is two points lower than Trump’s, at 39 percent. What is quite revealing is that more than 20 percent of Clinton voters told Bloomberg they had an unfavorable view of her while just 6 percent of Trump voters viewed him negatively.
Trump is still weak against other Democrats, according to a Public Policy Polling report published Tuesday. It shows devastating losses for Trump in hypothetical 2020 matchups against Sen. Bernie Sanders (52 percent to 39 percent) and former Vice President Joe Biden (54 to 39 percent), and then smaller defeats against prospective candidates Senators Elizabeth Warren and Corey Booker. For what it’s worth, Trump tied with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Will “productivity” increase with any of these anticipated new leaders? Whether Congress is active or not, it doesn’t seem to change the course of American politics, with factions growing ever further apart. A civil war isn’t what’s needed, but it could be unavoidable if the only seat of power in the U.S. remains in Washington, D.C. as opposed to being divided up among states, cities, neighborhoods.