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While Trump's away, Congress legislates?

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

"I know that he's speaking to a larger constituency," Meehan said Tuesday, referring to the president's 42.1 million Twitter followers as he headed into the panel's second day of marking up the tax bill. "But we've got to get things through the House and the Senate."

When the president is in Washington, he monitors the direction Republican lawmakers are heading on major bills closely via his cable news appetite and by working the phones.

Often, he fixates on an idea that is dominating that day's cable television narrative or being pushed by an ally that would allow him to achieve one major goal and a smaller one.

A prime example came last Wednesday.

Trump threw congressional Republican tax writers a curveball, suddenly voicing support for using the tax measure to repeal the 2010 health care law's individual insurance mandate. That idea has been pushed hard by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, with whom the president has met several times in recent weeks.

Trump let GOP tax writers know at the same time he did the world, using a tweet to signal his desire that the repeal make it into the bill. That single social media action complicated life for House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady.

On Tuesday, the Texas Republican left open the possibility that a repeal of the individual mandate could eventually make it into the GOP's tax overhaul.

He did so after Trump was joined by conservative House Republicans in pushing for its inclusion. Members of the House Freedom Caucus on Monday discussed the idea of using revenue from the mandate repeal to make some of the individual tax benefits retroactive to the start of 2017.

"I have been asked to consider it," Brady said during a radio interview, "and that's exactly what we're doing."

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters Tuesday that adding issues related to the health care law to a tax package would make "a complicated discussion even more complicated."

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