- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2017

President Trump’s dismay with congressional Republicans burst into public view Monday as he implored them to get behind his agenda, starting with repealing Obamacare this week as he searches for an elusive first major legislative win.

The man who made his reputation as a deal-maker, however, has struggled to sell his agenda even to his own party on Capitol Hill, where Republicans appear to be unsteady at the basic business of governing.

Ahead of a key vote expected Tuesday, Mr. Trump called out Senate Republicans for wavering on their longtime promise to repeal Obamacare.

“We, as a party, must fulfill that solemn promise to voters of this country to repeal and replace, what they have been saying for the last seven years,” he said. “But so far Senate Republicans have not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare.”

He made the remark at a White House event surrounded by families described as “victims of Obamacare” and warned senators that Americans were demanding action on health care.



“You’ll see that at the voting booth. Believe me,” Mr. Trump said.

He also used a speech to the Boy Scouts later Monday both to make a similar point — that “after seven years of trying … they’d better do it” — and to deliver an unusually public and personal jab at his health and human services secretary.

He told Thomas Price, who joined him on stage, that he had better get the numbers lined up for Tuesday’s key vote, “otherwise I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’ I’ll get somebody else,” reviving his catch phrase from the reality TV show “The Apprentice.”

White House aides stressed that Mr. Trump has been deeply involved in pushing the Obamacare repeal bill forward, making calls to senators around the clock to get them on board.

Mr. Price called the president’s personal involvement unprecedented.

“This is the greatest amount of involvement by any president that I have ever witnessed with members of Congress, one on one,” he said.

The description of his wheeling and dealing, however, underscored the absence of results.

Frustration has been mounting in the White House for weeks over the plodding progress with Mr. Trump’s agenda on Capitol Hill and over Republican allies’ lackluster defense against accusations that the Trump campaign helped Russia meddle in the U.S. presidential election.

Moving to energize his base to put pressure on Congress, Mr. Trump is taking his message on the road. He delivered a speech Monday to the 2017 National Scout Jamboree in Beaver, West Virginia, and is scheduled to hold a campaign-style rally Tuesday in Youngstown, Ohio.

Some of the president’s pent-up anger was released on Twitter.

“If Republicans don’t Repeal and Replace the disastrous ObamaCare, the repercussions will be far greater than any of them understand!” Mr. Trump tweeted in the morning.

A day earlier, he vented about the lack of political coverage Republican allies provided in the face of unrelenting attacks on his presidency.

“It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President,” he said.

Mr. Trump has had a difficult relationship with the Republican establishment in Washington since his campaign, including reluctance of party leaders such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan to endorse him after he clenched the party’s nomination.

Despite Mr. Trump’s upset win in November, some Republicans worry that his unpopularity will hamper their re-election campaigns.

Mr. Trump had a 39.9 percent job approval rating in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls, but he also had low numbers when he won the White House.

“What the Republicans have to remember — and his is sort of what Trump is grousing about — is Republicans have forgotten how to fight and they have to stop falling on their sword at the first sign of bad news coverage,” said Republican Party strategist Ford O’Connell.

He said the consequences would be worse for Republican lawmakers who falter on Obamacare repeal or tax cuts than for those who go to the mat for the president.

“They honestly think that Trump is going to drag them down, and what Trump is explaining to them is he is going to save their political necks,” Mr. O’Connell said.

The stakes for Mr. Trump are just as high.

After six months in the Oval Office, he has most of his agenda mired in Congress. The president has yet to put a win on the board for Obamacare repeal, tax cuts, a major infrastructure program or increased military spending.

He began the pivot to using public pressure on Congress over the weekend when presiding over the commissioning ceremony for the Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford. He prodded the crowd in Norfolk, Virginia, to get on the phone to their congressional representatives and senators.

“We need Congress to do its job and pass the budget that provides for higher, stable and predictable funding levels for our military needs that our fighting men and women deserve. And you will get it, believe me,” he said. “But I don’t mind getting a little hand, so call that congressman, and call that senator, and make sure you get it.”

He also threw in a plug for Obamacare repeal.

“By the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get health care,” Mr. Trump said.

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