February 2, 2019


How Republicans Erased Trumpism (Matthew Glassman, Feb. 1, 2019, NY Times)

Political power is not simply the ability to influence the positions citizens or lawmakers take on issues, but also the ability to control what issues are discussed and voted on.

Throughout the last Congress, Republican leaders simply declined to take up legislation that reflected the priority of the president but not their own. There were no votes on immigration restrictions or funding for a border wall, protectionist trade legislation or infrastructure.

The Trump budget proposals for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years requested deep cuts in nondefense discretionary spending. Congressional Republicans quietly buried them and delivered bills both years that increased nondefense spending.

Such "negative" agenda-setting leaves little trace; without a vote, it becomes difficult for opponents or voters to identify or understand what happened. President Trump's priorities weren't voted down in the House or the Senate; they were just never considered.

Agenda-setting also provides congressional leaders "positive" power to set legislative priorities. Mr. Trump has famously shown little interest in the details of policy, and Republican leaders in Washington easily convinced him to accept as his priorities the party's orthodox issues of Affordable Care Act repeal and tax cuts during his first year in office.

By setting the agenda and having the president sign on, Republican legislators controlled policy while sharing the position of the president. When Republicans held a White House celebration after passing tax legislation, Mr. Trump claimed credit, and legislators publicly praised the "Trump" tax bill, and the president himself.

This trade-off, in which orthodox Republicans get policy control and Mr. Trump gets the glory, is also apparent in the nominations of judges and executive branch officials. The president was quite successful in having judicial nominees confirmed. But virtually all of his confirmed judges have been standard conservatives; likewise, his successful executive branch appointments much more reflect Republican priorities than his own.

By privately influencing Mr. Trump to nominate people who reflect Republican priorities, congressional leaders not only win substantively, but the president gets to show off a perfect record of confirmations on the Senate floor, and a high rate of Republican support for his nominees.

Despite this, Mr. Trump has had an unusually large number of nominees rejected by the Senate, many of whom were put forth without previous input from congressional leaders. 

At Donald's presidential Museum, the pee tape may be the only evidence that he existed.

Posted by at February 2, 2019 8:21 AM