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Trump's presidency is becoming increasingly irrelevant

By Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

Announcement: Donald Trump is no longer the president of the United States.

Oh, sure, he has the title and he has the bully pulpit -- from which he's bullying everyone from NBA players to people protesting white supremacists to DACA kids.

But he's not actively governing the United States. That work is happening elsewhere -- in Congress, the courts, the Fed, the states. Or it's not happening at all.

It's not just that Trump lost the epic battle to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Trump never understood the Affordable Care Act to begin with and played no part in developing Republican alternatives.

The budget Trump submitted to Congress earlier this year was dead on arrival. House Republicans ignored Trump's request for $54 billion in cuts to departments and agencies and decided instead to cut non-defense spending by just $5 billion, and explode the defense budget.

The nine-page tax plan that Trump and congressional Republicans unveiled last week only vaguely resembles Trump's original tax proposal, and all the important decisions have been left to the tax-writing committees of Congress.

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Trump's relations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have become so strained that McConnell and Ryan have no interest in looping Trump into policies before they have to.

Meanwhile, Trump has run out of Obama executive orders he can declare voided. Major regulations, such as the EPA's Clean Power Plan, can't just be repealed. They have to go through a legal process that could take years.

Trump doesn't seem to be aware of this. He told a cheering crowd in Alabama recently that he had ended the Clean Power Plan by executive order. "Did you see what I did to that? Boom, gone."

Nope. The EPA will soon reveal its strategy for reversing the plan, but whatever it is, environmental groups are almost certain to appeal it in the courts. Big businesses and utilities, fearing that the courts may rule against the administration, are lobbying the EPA to come up with a replacement rather than try to eliminate the plan altogether.

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