Newspaper article The Canadian Press

GOP Infighting Stalled Health Reform: Will It Stall Rest of Trump Agenda?

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

GOP Infighting Stalled Health Reform: Will It Stall Rest of Trump Agenda?

Article excerpt

GOP spats stalled health; do they stall Trump?


WASHINGTON - In the screams of a right-wing radio host came the faint whisper of a fractured political coalition.

"Lie after lie, year after year, election after election," Mark Levin shouted this week, in one of his inimitable radio rants. "They degrade themselves. They embarrass themselves ... Was it all a joke? Was it all a fraud? Yes, apparently it was.

"What a disgrace."

These disgraceful, fraudulent, self-degrading jokesters he disparages are members of his own political party. A staunch conservative and former Reagan administration staffer, Levin is now a prolific crafter of rage-filled soliloquys about Republican leaders.

He's especially exercised after last week's health-care debacle.

The Republicans' failed health reform quickly exposed the fault lines in President Donald Trump's party -- deep, longstanding differences that helped make the political outsider his party's nominee but now threaten to swallow his agenda.

It's about to become clearer whether these factions can pull together and advance tax reform, infrastructure, and NAFTA negotiations -- all dear to the president, and all holding consequences for Canada's economy.

It's a once-in-a-generation chance for Republicans. For the first time in six election cycles, they control all major levers of federal power, and their party leadership is desperate not to blow it.

"I don't want us to become a factionalized majority," Paul Ryan said this week. "I have talked about the need to go from being an opposition party to being a proposition party and a governing party. It may take a little bit more time."

One colleague put it more bluntly in a television interview: "We're not there yet," said Republican Tom Cole. He said there were lessons learned from the health fiasco, some involving parliamentary procedure.

Republicans tried passing the health reform as a budget bill -- they calculated, with good reason, that they'd never win Democratic votes, so to avoid the Senate's 60 per cent vote requirement for most bills, the House designed it as a fiscal package.

Then they quarrelled over the contents.

The fighting factions even have different names -- it's the Freedom Caucus conservatives, the Tuesday Group moderates, the Trump loyalists, the leadership circle -- and these days they're all blaming each other.

Trump is fighting a multi-front battle using his own social-media account.

He anger-tweeted at the conservatives: "The Republican House Freedom Caucus was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." Yet he dropped hints about Ryan too -- Trump encouraged people to watch a Fox News show, where the host would call for the Speaker's ouster.

White House staffers have been grumbling to reporters about Ryan, blaming him for the bill's weaknesses. Indeed, the president didn't work much to sell the package in his public appearances. …

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