The 99th day of President Trump’s term in the White House dawned inauspiciously for an administration that, despite the president’s seeming dismissal, has invested an awful lot in its ability to complete major tasks inside an arbitrary 100-day deadline.
The temporarily reanimated corpse of the American Health Care Act, meant to fulfill the president’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act died again in the House of Representatives overnight, facing too much opposition from within the GOP itself.
It’s a bitter loss for an administration that is still looking for its first legislative win, despite the fact that the Republican Party controls both the White House and both chambers of Congress, made much more so by the fact that Trump himself pushed very hard for the law only to see expected votes fail to materialize not once, but twice.
But the failure to do away with the ACA is just one more disappointment in an increasingly large pile of them that Trump is being forced to confront as he plans a large celebratory rally in Pennsylvania to mark his 100th day in office tomorrow:
-- Congress is not expected to provide funds to begin construction of the wall between the US and Mexico that was so central to the president’s campaign.
-- A comprehensive plan to overhaul the tax code that Trump promised to release this week turned out to be a one-page set of bullet points full of hype, and short on substance, and plainly tilted toward the very wealthy. Like Trump.
-- A lengthy list of other legislative promises that Trump specifically promised to pursue in his first days in office has gone completely unfulfilled and, in fact, mostly ignored.
-- His job approval rating is at the lowest level of any president at this point in his first term that the Gallup organization has ever recorded.
And Trump himself, in an Oval Office interview with Reuters, complained that being president is much less enjoyable than his old life as a reality television star and real estate mogul.
“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told the wire service. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
Trump’s complaints about the difficulty of his life inside the Oval Office “cocoon,” including gripes about how security requirements limit his freedom of movement, struck a sour note with many given that the White House, on Thursday morning, had had to announce the deaths of two US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.
At this point, about the best thing that Trump can hope for on his 100th day in office is that it won’t mark the beginning of a government shutdown. Members of Congress, after much wrangling, seem prepared to pass a temporary spending bill, buying them time to finalize legislation funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The Trump White House, in the meantime, is in full-on spin mode, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisting that the president’s first 100 days have been the most consequential in history.
Among the accomplishments the administration is claiming is the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But while that is undoubtedly a major landmark in the history of the court, filling a judgeship held open by dubious means by the Senate Majority Leader and approved by only after the same Senate Majority Leader engineered the extraordinary elimination of the filibuster stretches the idea of “presidential accomplishments.”
The White House is also touting the 28 bills Trump has signed since taking office as another sign that he is a highly productive chief executive. But the list contains more insubstantial filler than a 10th grader’s book report composed on the school bus.
Among the “laws” the administration is demanding credit for passing are things like changing the name of a Veterans Affairs clinic in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Three of the 28 laws name people to the board of the Smithsonian Institution. Another granted an exception allowing former Marine Corps General James Mattis to serve as Secretary of Defense. Others simply encourage people to fly the American flag on certain days of the year. National Public Radio has a useful roundup of the new laws here.
The bulk of the bills Trump has signed that actually have a substantive effect on public policy are expressly negative in character: They repeal rules and regulations imposed during the Obama Administration. The laws were passed under the Congressional Review Act, which allows a sort of dismissal-with-prejudice of regulations that have been instituted recently.
This last raft of bills -- 13 in total -- can be construed as a victory for the administration and its allies. Paring back government regulation is, after all, a vital element to the Republican philosophy of governance. But touting them as “historic” feels like another stretch from an administration desperate to back up its claims of great accomplishment in its early days.