House GOP Tries to Shrug Off Trump Impact on Agenda

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By Jonathan Nicholson

House Republicans expressed hope President Donald Trump’s recent political fights won’t sap their legislative momentum on issues like health care and overhauling the tax system but said it remains a possibility.

Worries over Trump’s recent controversies—including the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and allegations Trump gave Russian officials sensitive anti-terrorist intelligence in an Oval Office meeting—hit Wall Street on May 17, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 370 points.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to soothe concerns, saying Republicans were taking the allegations seriously but wouldn’t let them get in the way of the party’s major legislative priorities for 2017, health care and the tax revamp.

“The point I want to make here is—you’ve heard me say this before—we’re going to walk and chew gum at the same time. We’re going to keep doing our jobs. We’re going to keep passing our bills,” Ryan said after a weekly party meeting just off Capitol Hill.

“We’re going to keep advancing our reforms that we were elected to advance while we do all these other things that are within our responsibility. And that’s what we’ll be judged in on 2018.”

Mixed Views

With the spotlight on Trump’s political problems intensifying, other Republicans said it could be difficult to keep the White House’s woes from being a drag on the legislative agenda.

“It does kind of take away from the urgency of other things that we have to get done and that’s unfortunate. It consumes a lot of attention. And that’s not a positive thing,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told reporters.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee, was less pessimistic.

“Honestly, I don’t know that it stalls it at all,” he said. “It distracts it, but it doesn’t necessarily stall it.”

“The Senate is still going to be working on health care reform and we’re still going see if we can get to a conference on whatever the Senate does ... and get it done—because Republicans think that’s important to do, not because Trump’s pushing it; because Republicans think so,” Simpson said. “Republicans think it’s important to do tax reform. So I don’t know that it changes the likelihood of some of this stuff going on.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of a group of libertarian and conservative Republican members called the House Freedom Caucus, said he was not too worried about the Trump fallout.

“I think at the end of the day you have two parallel paths. You have the legislative path and you have the political path,” he said. “Obviously, this is on that political side of things that you prefer not to deal with, but I don’t see it slowing up the legislative agenda—especially since the the speaker sets the legislative agenda.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Nicholson in Washington at jnicholson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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