Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


The Republicans Don't Know Whether to Duck or Fall in Line

By Rob Tenery, MD on June 5, 2017

Didn’t our Republican Congressional representatives that were elected or reelected to office, this past November, make campaign promises to change much, if not most, of what President Obama had put in place during his eight years in the White House? Didn’t Donald Trump make campaign promises to build a wall with Mexico, put a temporary halt on potential terrorist refugees coming in from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries and end the unfair practices that exist with many of the United States’ trading partners? Didn’t Trump promise to ‘drain the swamp’?

The media was having a heyday, criticizing the Republican controlled House because the members had difficulty just putting together a consensus on repealing Obamacare. They are also claiming that the Republicans caved to the Democrats in approving a budget that was mostly an extension of Obama’s proposed spending allocations. The left, supported by a very biased media, proudly grades out Trump’s first 100 days as an F to a C at best, claiming the voters gave the Republicans the House, the Senate and the White House. This is reminiscent of the famous quote in a 1984 Wendy’s commercial by Claire Peller,  “Where is the beef?”

Although the President was able to get Judge Neil Gorsuch appointed to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court and finally fill his cabinet, reportedly 80% of the federal appoints to be made by Trump are still unfilled. Of the 1,700 positions listed as ‘Presidential Appointments’, 1,200 require Senate approval and about 500 don’t. Reince Priebus, Trump’s Chief of Staff, contends that these numbers are not as bad as they look, since there are two levels any of the potential employees must pass before they can assume their new positions--- they must first obtain their appropriate security clearance before they can be approved by the Senate.

Additionally, there are 114 pending vacancies in the federal courts and 14 sitting judges that have already announced their intention to take senior status or retire in the next several months. This upcoming shift in the lower courts and Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court should give Trump and the Republican controlled Congress a significant advantage in advancing their agenda.

As of April 27th, Trump has issued 29 executive orders.  More than half have called for reviews, have commissioned reports or established panels to issue recommendations for federal agencies to evaluate the feasibility of White House policy goals and report to the president. His executive orders to temporarily halt bringing in refugees from the war-torn Middle East and withholding federal funds for ‘sanctuary’ cities were both blocked by federal judges and their rulings upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

I’d give the President an A- for stepping up on the world stage to challenge the Syrian leadership, the North Korean leadership, building ties with China, supporting Israel, restoring our military presence, pulling out of the Paris Agreement, questioning the TPP and NAFTA trade agreements, forcing NATO to pay their fare share and possibly ending the Iran deal. The grade on Trump’s domestic policies is still out, even though he has given a go ahead for the pipeline projects, helped the coal miners and removed some of Obama’s harsh EPA regulations. 

The Republican majorities in the House and Senate deserve no more than a C- grade. They are still trying to find their way, even though now that they have the numbers to be in charge. Unfortunately, Paul Ryan is attempting to be too many things to too many contingencies--- following the President’s lead, barter between the differing Republican factions in the House and his own political agenda for the future. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems uncomfortable in his role as the leader in the Senate, especially with scrappy Chuck Schumer trying to sidetrack everything the Republicans support.

The Democrats would have earned a B+ for their efforts. However, I graded them down to a B- because much of what they delay or oppose, for political reasons, could be good for this country.

Trump may suffer from lack of experience in the political arena, but he will probably make up for it with his business acumen. He is the master of the ‘art of the deal’--- shooting high, realizing he won’t get everything, but finally settling, so that both parties feel they achieved something.

Once Trump gets his federal appointments and the judicial vacancies filled, the ‘deck will be stacked’ against the Democrats. The irony is, the way they appear to still wield power in Washington, you wouldn’t know it.

The Republican Leadership doesn’t seem to know whether to duck or fall in behind their President. The voters spoke in this past election. I think the Congress should listen!





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