What a difference a few weeks makes.
After a very difficult month of August, President Trump has turned a corner and there is now light at the end of the tunnel.
First, he marshalled the full attention and focus of the federal government in response to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, winning broad praise for the federal government’s response. Criticism has not come, despite the size and scope of the storms and the harsh partisan atmosphere.
Then, he shocked Republican leaders by “clearing the decks” with a three-month delay on the debt ceiling and the government spending bill, pushing past the crucial month of September two thorny issues that would have otherwise consumed precious legislative time.
This strategically created unexpected floor time for the Senate to consider a last-ditch Obamacare replacement bill devised primarily by Sens. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, a medical doctor, that would be an improvement on the status quo.
The bill does several important things: It injects federalism into health care, rebalances Obamacare funds by tilting them away from four states with 20 percent of the population — which receive 40 percent of the federal money — eliminates the individual and employer mandate, ends the Medical Device Tax, places a per capita cap on Medicaid to make the program more actuarially sound and increases contribution limits on Health Savings Accounts.
These are all very good things.
At present, Republicans appear to be one or two votes short before an expected vote next week, with Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, appearing to be the key holdouts.
Should this legislation pass, Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, has pledged that the House will also pass the bill, giving Republicans and the White House a needed policy win on a crucial campaign pledge that addresses an urgent problem for millions of people.
Earlier this week, Mr. Trump gave a very strong speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations. He further isolated North Korea by making clear that the United States would destroy the regime if it directly threatens the homeland or our allies.
He directly criticized Iran for its support for terrorism, much to the delight of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it was the best U.N. speech he has witnessed in 30 years.
He directly called out Venezuela for its human rights abuses, and offered a line that shook the entire general assembly: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.”
Mr. Trump was far bolder and more direct that a president typically is in this speech in the world’s most famous diplomatic setting. While praising the U.N.’s mission as “beautiful,” he also urged the nations of the world to solve their own sovereign problems first, while also uniting to address common threats.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes the major players continue working on tax reform legislation aimed at simplifying the code, stimulating hiring and rising wages, fostering greater economic growth, and making the U.S. competitive again through a significant corporate tax cut, all while juicing the economy this year by making the provisions retroactive.
That legislative package is not yet complete, but it is expected to be unveiled as soon as next week as members of Congress eagerly await the details.
The contours of a successful end to 2017 are now visible: Pass an Obamacare replacement, pass the first major tax cut in a generation, find a bipartisan path on a government spending bill and the debt ceiling before December, and continue negotiating a bipartisan agreement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before the phaseout deadline arrives in March.
That would be a year’s worth of work in three months and would give the American people much greater confidence in their government.
The path is visible. Now is the time to take it.
• Matt Mackowiak is the president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran, and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. His national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” may be found on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and at MackOnPolitics.com.
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