Over the next several weeks, days, and hours, you have to be paying attention. Some major things have happened, as you probably know.
First, the Republicans in the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Ryan, took a drubbing on the American Health Care Act. President Trump is trying to blame the Speaker for it, and it appears the Speaker is going to take it up the ass. The President called, via Twitter and Fox News, for the Speaker to step down. He has officially sicked the Republican Congress on itself. He doesn’t know who will win — the “moderates” (as if there were any) or the more extreme right — and to be fair, he probably doesn’t care. If Ryan ends up remaining in the post, he’ll be so beat up internally that he’ll have to come to heel.
Second, the Democrats in Congress are feeling emboldened after their victory in the House on Friday. Now the Senators have a chance to get their moment. Can they successfully block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court? The grassroots did their job back during the town meetings. The Representatives did their jobs in the wells of the House. Now can the Senators ride that wave of victory in the Senate? Senators Schumer, Franken, Leahy, and Feinstein are carrying the ball. Let’s see what they can do it.
And watch out for how the Republicans play it. If they use the “nuclear option,” they’ve effectively taken the ball and gone home, like a sad bunch of quitters.
Third, Sen. Sanders is going to propose a single-payer healthcare bill “within a couple of weeks.” People have been asking what Bernie’s role in the Democratic Party will be after his national reputation reached the stratosphere during the primary campaign. If you want to know the difference between the pre-Bernie Dems and the post-Bernie Dems, watch how loudly the rest of the Democrats support his bill. If they come out swinging for it, then maybe they actually learned their lesson. If they do not, then their chances of taking back the Senate in 2018 are zilch.
Fourth, Trump is announcing later today that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is going to run a new White House office dedicated to innovating the operations of government using contemporary business principles. As the Washington Post explains it, the office will be “a SWAT team of strategic consultants…staffed by former business executives and…designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington.” The office is being advised by, among others, Tim Cook from Apple and Bill Gates from Microsoft.
The message is that this is a non-ideological office run by the New York contingent of Trump’s senior advisors. Watch how the media treats this announcement. It should signal their preference for Kushner over Bannon, and if the news is received well, be prepared to read more stories about pro-business but less “ideological” bills in the House and Senate (such as the removal of Pres. Obama’s privacy regulations last week).
The President has lost on almost every major initiative so far. His immigration orders have been shut down by the courts; he couldn’t repeal and replace Obamacare; he almost lost on his cabinet (hopefully, the Senate Dems were saving their strength for the Supreme Court nomination), and his national security apparatus is in dire straits due to the investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia.
But if the President can get a media win on the White House Office of American Innovation, maybe Bannon’s star will start to dim.
Fifth, speaking of Russia, we have to keep our eye on Congress this week when it comes to the investigation. The Democrats and Republicans in the House seem to be approaching the investigation on completely partisan lines, while the Senate Intelligence Committee has been more low key. The latter will have their first public hearing this week, and the questions the Senators ask should signal how seriously they’re taking it. If the two parties are contentious in their questioning, as the House Judicial Committee was during Gorsuch’s hearings, then don’t expect either of Congress’ Russian investigations to be on the up and up.
So pay attention now: Will the Republicans in the House go after Speaker Ryan? Will the Democrats in the Senate block Judge Gorsuch? Will they also aggressive promote Sanders’ single-payer bill? Will the media gush over Kushner’s new office? What will happen with the Russian investigation?
And don’t forget: keep your eyes on the other bills making their way through Congress. The politicians are only in DC for two more weeks before they take off for a long recess. Watch what they do before the run for the hills, because the Republicans will definitely engage in some rear-guard actions as they scurry for home.
Just two more weeks of vigilance before we can take a breath. Don’t let up now.