“In a way I’m glad I got it out of the way,” President Trump told the Washington Post last week in the moments after he and Republican leaders in Congress pulled the plug on their first major legislative priority, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
Health care was hard. Really hard. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” the president had said in a now-infamous quote. The health-care legislation was pulled without a vote last week after House Speaker Paul Ryan told the president there were not enough votes from Republicans to pass it.
The implication of Trump’s musings about the difficulty of passing complicated health-care legislation is that he believes the rest of his agenda will be much easier. Tax cuts? Everybody like tax cuts. The legendary border wall. More defense spending. A big, bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Moving on from the American Health Care Act now liberates Trump to pursue the promises he’s truly passionate about, the items that drew the loudest cheers at his campaign rallies last year. Yet Republicans in Congress don’t see it that way, and for good reason: Passage of the health-care legislation was supposed to lay the groundwork and build momentum for a series of even tougher negotiation and votes to come. That to-do list is longer and less sexy than the president’s agenda, and it includes a few items—like funding the government and raising the debt ceiling—where Republicans don’t have the luxury of failure. And unlike the health care push, most of the upcoming legislative battles will require support from Democrats.