The Republican Party and President Trump achieved their first major legislative achievement with the passage of the GOP tax bill. The GOP projected an image of unity Wednesday, with some of Mr. Trump’s biggest critics — and even Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who voted against the bill the first time around — smiling and applauding behind Mr. Trump.
“When you asked [House Speaker] Paul Ryan about some of the controversies over the last several months, he would say, ‘Well, I’m not focused on that, I’m focused on our agenda,’ and that’s what you saw today,” CBS News chief Washington correspondent and “Face the Nation” anchor John Dickerson said. “They were in the Promised Land, all of them together. That locks the party in behind the president.”
The tax bill passed the Senate early Wednesday with every Republican senator voting for it (Sen. John McCain missed the vote after traveling back to Arizona due to health issues). In the House, several Republicans from suburban New York, New Jersey and California defected and voted against the bill in both the votes.
Besides confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice, this marks the first major achievement of the Trump presidency. President Trump has long said he wants to sign the legislation before Christmas.
But Dickerson noted Mr. Trump’s achievements have not actually paid off in popularity. Mr. Trump’s approval rating averages about 39 percent and the approval rating for the tax bill is 30 percent — about 10 points lower than the Affordable Care Act when former President Obama signed it. The Republican Party is less popular.
“For somebody who came into the office with his signature skill being marketing, all of those achievements have not paid off in popularity,” Dickerson said. “And so he has gotten the achievement, but what has eluded him so far is the approval.”
Recently, the Alabama Senate race appeared to divide the Republican Party — and the GOP suffered a crushing defeat in a deep red state.
Now that the GOP is unified, CBS News chief congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes said that although Mr. Trump has mentioned infastructure, Republicans really want to tackle health care again, either shoring up the individual insurance markets or chipping away at Obamacare. Other priorities include welfare reform and reinstating work requirements for Medicaid and food stamp recipients, Cordes said.
“Paul Ryan and a number of Republicans want to go even further and reform Medicare and Social Security as well, but some of their colleagues think that could be radioactive in a mid-term election year — especially since President Trump has promised not to touch entitlements,” Cordes said.
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