President Donald Trump has had to act largely without congressional help to pursue his agenda.
Big ticket legislative items like tax reform, infrastructure investments and health-care reform have yet to be accomplished, and Trump’s most significant actions have been through executive order.
The New York Times described this reliance on executive power as an “Obama approach” used to eliminate former President Barack Obama’s legacy.
The president has initiated executive action on illegal immigration, pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, okayed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, exited the Paris climate change accord, launched North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations and undermined Obamacare by ending certain subsidies to insurance companies.
“We’re taking a little different route than we had hoped because getting Congress … they forgot what their pledges were. So we’re going a little different route, but you know what? In the end, it’s going to be just as effective and maybe it will even be better,” Trump said at an event for social conservatives Friday about his struggles to repeal Obamacare.
Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers also commented in private that he can’t trust Congress to pass tax reform.
“The honest answer is, I’m not sure we’re on track to do that. … Here’s my skepticism: they had already passed health care bills to repeal and replace Obamacare in both chambers multiple times and couldn’t get that done,” Ayers remarked at a private Republican donor event, according to audio obtained by Politico.
The president was expected to be able to have some serious legislative accomplishments with Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. “We are very excited about getting to work and hitting the ground running in 2017 to put this country back on track,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in December 2016.
Ten months later, Trump is feuding with Republican lawmakers, and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon is focusing on primarying Republicans in the 2018 midterms.
This has pleased Democrats, who publicly fretted about Trump being some sort of fascist leader.
“We didn’t win the elections, but we’ve won every fight,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a recent interview about the battles in Congress. “You look at everything, they have no victories!”
While some of Trump’s executive actions can be reversed, others are permanent implementations of the populist agenda he ran on. The U.S. will never be in TPP or the Paris Climate change accord, the Keystone XL pipeline will be constructed, and NAFTA will either change or the U.S. will leave the agreement.