On the Hill and in the White House
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
John McCain has not always been beloved by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle but today when he returned to the Senate it was triumphant, eleven days after having had brain surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his brain. While his vote to permit the Senate to proceed with its debate on healthcare was expected, the vote was only a procedural one. Should an actual substantive health care bill emerge from the Senate during the next few weeks—which appears at this time to be most unlikely—it will need to be reconciled with the House passed bill. That conference committee bill will require final passage then by both the House and the Senate; a very tall order.
As for McCain’s speech it was reminiscent of what a classic civics teacher would tell students how the Congress is supposed to work. Whether the classic conflict resolution and compromise vision that McCain presented will re-emerge seems unlikely given the cast of characters who currently occupy seats in the Congress—on both sides of the aisle. It sounded good at least to hear one veteran of 30 years in the Senate remind his colleagues and the White House what they actually were sent to Washington to accomplish.
Why Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to permit himself to be humiliated by Trump remains an absolute puzzlement. As he serves at the pleasure of the President, Sessions can be fired at any time. If there is a plan afoot to control the timing so Trump can make an interim appointment when Congress is in recess and his new AG be able to fire Mueller, Sessions remaining on the job does not eliminate that possibility. Similarly, such a scenario will never restrain the firestorm that would likely ensue if such a development were to occur.
Trump’s other major, looming confrontation with Congress—other than raising the debt ceiling and a budget outline—is Congress’ bill increasing sanctions against Iran, North Korea, and Russia. With overwhelming, veto-proof support from both parties in both chambers, this bill will force President Trump to endure the first public challenge to his continuing love affair with Russia. The most important part of the heightened sanctions legislation is that it does not permit the President from lifting them without Congressional acquiescence.
So far the new director of White House Communications, Anthony Scaramucci, has had no influence on Trump’s twittering. While Trump’s lawyers already recognized the potential legal danger in Trump’s twitting, during his first four days in office the “Mooch” has watched as the President’s twittering madness has only escalated.
Lest one assume that the Trump is oblivious to international activities, the President indicated in the White House press conference in the presence of the Prime Minister of Lebanon that he will be engaging the Qatar-Saudi Arabia stand-off tomorrow. Perhaps given the economic interests that are obviously at stake in this confrontation, Tillerson may actually have been working on the matter. It is clear that the Secretary had minimal interest in the Israeli-Palestinian violence escalation or the incident involving an attack and reprisal by an Israeli security guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman.
The matter with Jordan has been resolved and it will be clearer after Friday’s services if the same will be true for the confrontation on Al Aqsa. It probably would be unprecedented if both of these problems were to be resolved by Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and the Jordanians without America’s involvement. The Trump Administration’s chief Middle East negotiator was busy appearing before Congress and the chief emissary, Jason Greenblatt, has not been heard from although he was dispatched to the region.