The comprehensive and ambitious legislative agenda the Trump administration is pushing is entering a crucial phase as philosophical discussions over general principles come to an end and the need to actually make decisions on the details of the laws begins, CNN reported on Monday.
House Speaker Paul Ryan is at the middle of this herculean task that will in large part determine if the administration is praised as successful or ridiculed for unfulfilled promises.
Ryan faces several obstacles with a new administration that has many figures with no experience in how Congress operates, an unpredictable president, opposition Democrats who have shown little taste for bipartisan cooperation and ideologically conservative members of his own party who threw out his predecessor.
And with this difficult mix, President Donald Trump is insisting on demanding changes, key among them a swift repeal and replacement of Obamacare and the first overhaul of the tax system in three decades.
"We have an unusual situation where the president was elected with clear priorities, but without many detailed policies of his own," Michael Steel, a former top adviser to then-Speaker John Boehner, told CNN, which interviewed dozens of congressmen, administration officials, lobbyists and staffers to get an idea of how the process is going.
Ryan recently insisted on Fox News's "Hannity" that Trump and Congress are "exactly on track" on a shared agenda for the administration's first 200 days in office.
However, CNN reports that despite intensive behind-the-scenes efforts to get behind a united plan, many lawmakers are frustrated at what they say is a lack of focus at the White House in the crucial opening days of the administration when a president is usually at the height of his power and that significant work remains to be done to agree on the details of legislation.
The hard-core support for Trump is reportedly not widespread among Republican congressmen, with many waiting to take credit for any success that emerges but also not eager to stick by him if the process gets sidetracked or bogged down.
Vice President Mike Pence, a former member of the House leadership, is considered a crucial figure in the process of finalizing the legislation, as is Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a former House colleague, because they have the congressional experience lacking in much of the other key members of the Trump administration.
So far the administration's pathway to formulating the legislation has been different from that of Trump's predecessors, both Democrats and Republicans, where the White House would send Congress detailed instruction on what would and would not be acceptable to the president.
"Congress will have an easier job making progress the sooner the president provides specific leadership on some of these key issues," said Steel, who is now a managing director at the Washington-based consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies.
What remains to be seen is if the Trump administration will be able to overcome the various obstacles and push through a unified plan that has the ability to pass.
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