August 2, 2017


Why Congress is ignoring Trump (Peter Grier, AUGUST 2, 2017, CS monitor)

Is President Trump evolving into a figurehead, increasingly ignored by Congress and even some members of his own executive branch of government? [...]

[T]o see why some political scientists would call Trump ineffective, look at what's happening in Congress this week. The president has railed on Twitter that Senators will be "quitters" if they don't redouble efforts to repeal Obamacare. His budget director has said that the Senate shouldn't vote on anything else until they vote again on health care.

Senators are apparently treating those words as empty threats. Majority leader Mitch McConnell has outlined legislative plans leading up to the August recess, and health care isn't in them.

Then there's the Russia sanctions bill. In a statement, Trump excoriated that legislation on Wednesday as partially unconstitutional. Yet as he did so, he signed it into law. He effectively had no choice, since it passed the House and Senate with large majorities, which could have overridden a presidential veto.

Asked Wednesday about Trump's criticisms of the sanctions law, Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, answered simply, "that's fine."

Pressed by a reporter on the president's complaint that the sanctions law infringed on executive branch authority, Senator Corker, by now in an elevator, just shrugged his shoulders as the doors closed, ending the conversation. [...]

As Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor, points out on the blog Lawfare, one of the most remarkable aspects of the entire Trump presidency has been the extent to which senior officials treat Trump as if he were not chief executive.

They regularly contradict his statements, whether it is UN Ambassador Nikki Haley saying that the US "absolutely" supports a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, to the many top security officials who have testified there is no evidence that President Barack Obama directed wiretapping of Trump in Trump Tower, as Trump charged.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has been quietly reassuring allies that Trump is not in fact rejecting NATO's common defense, as he sometimes seems to do.

'Time to Move On': Senate G.O.P. Flouts Trump After Health Care Defeat (MATT FLEGENHEIMER and THOMAS KAPLANAUG. 1, 2017, NY Times)

They have abandoned well-worn phrases, like "growing pains" and "sea legs," that sustained them through the endless winter and spring.

And if a few months ago President Trump's scattershot demands might have sent the chamber into a lather, compelling lawmakers to honor his megaphone, the collective shrugs at his rage over last week's failed health care repeal vote have signaled a new phase in this shotgun marriage of unified Republican rule.

Congressional fear is low. Eyes are rolling with greater velocity. Executive instructions on how to proceed are being ignored as a matter of course.

"We've got other things to do," Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, said after Mr. Trump insisted that the party refuse to take up other issues with the repeal pledge unfulfilled.

Posted by at August 2, 2017 5:06 PM