This essentially sums up the mood “less drama from the White House”.
With U.S. President Donald Trump increasingly getting tangled in scandals and controversies, Republican lawmakers and lobbyists are of the view that the prospects for passing sweeping tax cuts, launching ambitious infrastructure programs or rolling back Obamacare are receding.
With both the chamber of the U.S. Congress under Republican control along with the White House, party leaders and allies in the business community had expected quicker traction on their plans, with corporate tax cuts topping their priorities.
However going by the limited progress made in four months in the Trump Administration, and now saddled with congressional probes on possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russia, Republicans are getting increasingly wary.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department named the former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Trump’s links with Russia.
“It’s the elephant in the room right now,” said Republican Representative Pat Tiberi. “The smartest minds in the White House know that, whether it’s tax reform or anything else on the public policy front. It’s hard enough to get things done in the U.S. Capitol under the best of circumstances.”
Although key congressional leaders and administrators met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss ways to move ahead and despite the House Ways and Means Committee set to hold a hearing on tax reform on Thursday, there is a long way to go before a bill becomes law.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had said, “less drama from the White House” was needed to advance legislative priorities.
On Wednesday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters, the legislative process had “pretty much ground to a halt” amid the turmoil in Washington.
Republican Representative Steve Womack stated it was important for committees investigating the Russia matter to quickly move forward in order to ensure that both – the public and the Congress gets their answers.
“Any time we get bogged down on these kinds of issues unrelated to the governing agenda, it serves to delay and to sometimes complicate the real job that we have to do for the American people,” said Womack.
On Wednesday, during a news conference when House Speaker Paul Ryan urged his colleagues to “seize this moment” to pass tax reform he was bombarded with questions on James Comey being fired as the director of the FBI by Trump and the Russia investigation. All of which left him red faced.
Corporate clients and many lobbyists have said in the past week that they have grown more cautious on the prospects of a tax reform but are still hopeful that at least a small package can be approved.
“My worry level has grown considerably,” said a lobbyist.
“When this all started, the thing we heard from the Hill was ‘transformative tax reform. I think as time passes, tax reform is going to look much different, that it may be begin to look more like tax cuts than tax reform,” said a strategist who consults with major companies focused on tax reform.