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How to Waste a Congressional Majority

Trump and the Republican Congress

We need to talk: Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, November 2016. Joshua Roberts / REUTERS

Governing is always hard in polarized times, but it has been especially hard during U.S. President Donald Trump’s first year in office. Undisciplined and unpopular, Trump has been largely unable to advance his agenda on Capitol Hill despite Republican control of both houses of Congress. With his political capital shrinking as his public approval falls, Trump will no doubt struggle to deliver on his campaign promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, reform the tax code, build a wall along the southern border, and repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. 

It is tempting to blame Trump’s legislative failures on his lack of government experience, his indifference to the details of policy, and his tempestuous personality. But focusing only on personal characteristics misses the political and institutional dynamics at play. The two parties are deeply polarized, Republicans hold only a slim Senate majority, and Republican conferences in both

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