President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Photo / AP
President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress gives him a welcome opportunity to refocus his young Administration on the core economic issues that helped him get elected – and, his allies hope, to move beyond the distractions and self-inflicted wounds that have roiled his White House.
Trump’s advisers say he will use his prime-time speech today to declare early progress on his campaign promises, including withdrawing the United States
from TPP, the sweeping Pacific Rim trade pact, and to map a path ahead on thorny legislative priorities, including healthcare and infrastructure spending.
“We spend billions in the Middle East, but we have potholes all over the country,” Trump said yesterday as he previewed the address during a meeting with the nation’s governors. “We’re going to start spending on infrastructure big.”
The White House said Trump has been gathering ideas for the address from the series of listening sessions he’s been holding with law enforcement officials, union representatives, coal miners and others.
More broadly, some Republicans are anxious for the President to set aside his feuds with the media, the intelligence community and the courts, which have overshadowed the party’s policy priorities.Republicans, impatient to begin making headway on an ambitious legislative agenda, hope Trump arrives on Capitol Hill armed with specifics on replacing the “Obamacare” health law and overhauling the nation’s tax system, two issues he’s so far talked about in mostly general terms.
The pressure from Republican lawmakers makes this a critical moment for a new President who ran for office on a pledge to swiftly shake up Washington and follow through on the failed promises of career politicians.
While most new presidents enjoy a honeymoon period, Trump is saddled with record low approval ratings – just 44 per cent of Americans approve of his job performance, according to a new NBC News
/Wall Street Journal survey.
His most sweeping Executive Order was blocked by federal courts, sending advisers scrambling to write a new travel and immigration directive, which the President is expected to sign tomorrow.
Morale is also plummeting among some White House staffers following a string of leaks that have left aides questioning each other. On Monday, Politico reported that White House press secretary Sean Spicer had sprung surprise “phone checks” for members of his communications team after details from a staff meeting were made public.
In public, Trump has continued to speak about his presidency with his usual confident bluster, declaring that there’s “never been a presidency that’s done so much in such a short period of time”.
But he’s privately vented frustrations to associates, particularly about what he sees as the ineffectiveness of the White House’s communications efforts and the scattershot nature of his first weeks in office.
Yesterday, the White House tried to start over. Trump met with governors and healthcare executives, pledging to work together to “save Americans from Obamacare”.
The Office of Management and Budget also laid the groundwork for a budget. “We’re going to do more with less and make the Government lean and accountable to the people,” Trump said.
The Trump Log
• Republican Devin Nunes, chairman of the House permanent select committee on intelligence, says the committee has seen no evidence of contact between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian Government during the 2016 election and insists there is no need for a special prosecutor. Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, said it was too early to make such a determination.
• Former President George W Bush yesterday defended the media’s role in keeping world leaders in check, noting that “power can be addictive”, and warned against immigration policies that could alienate Muslims. “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law,” Bush told NBC’s Today show.
Donald Trump yesterday said his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, is organising protests against his presidency. In an interview with Fox News, Trump said: “I think that President Obama is behind it because his people certainly are behind it. In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics
. It will probably continue.” He was reacting to a Fox comment that a group Obama is linked to was helping organise protests.