President Donald J. Trump reached a deal with Democrats — putting off fights over spending and debt until the end of the year. (White House photo)
The rest of the 2017 will have less drama than the ups and downs than those that we have been experiencing since January. The federal government will more or less operate on schedule, the debt limit fight has been pushed back to the end of the year, and it’s because President Donald J. Trump successfully reached out to Democrats. This is exactly what the president should have been doing all along. This is governing.
This is Trahant Reports.
What a week. When it began, I wrote: “Congress is back today and one of two things will happen: It will either do its work or all hell will break loose.” I was off. It wasn’t Congress doing its job, it was the president. He bypassed his own Republican party leaders (catching them off-guard) and struck a deal with Democrats to fund government for the rest of the year and to push the debt limit fight back until December.
This is exactly what the president should have been doing all along.
This is governing. It means, for now, at least, he figured out that the real majority in Congress is moderate Republicans plus the Democrats.
It’s smart politics. But it’s also dangerous because his action undermined both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — especially with their more conservative members. If it’s a one-time event, Ryan and McConnell will get over the snub. But if this is the new way of doing business, well, there will be a different kind of drama ahead.
There is also a new movement by some Republican to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This plan would push more of the decision making about health care to the states, through block grants. It would even let states keep aspects of the Affordable Care Act such as Medicaid expansion, as long as they’re willing to pay for the extra costs. And that’s a deal breaker.
The problem for the Indian health system in such a scheme is that states neither understand nor want to invest the resources required. This bill would have to be considered fast under Senate rules. The current set-up is to vote on a replacement plan using the budget reconciliation process. That only requires 50 votes instead of the more common 60 vote standard but that goes away on Sept. 30 unless there is a new budget in place. That’s unlikely.
Another health care issue that impacts Indian Country is the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan or CHIP. This program is essential for so many children who receive services from both the Indian health system and their own school. The current law expires Sept. 30.
So there is a lot of important work ahead. And the best outcome might be another presidential deal with Democrats. Quickly.
I am Mark Trahant.