While it remained unclear Friday whether he would win or lose on a health-care overhaul, President Trump was already starting to turn the page.
Determined to highlight other administration priorities, Trump staged two morning announcements in the White House meant to underscore his commitment to creating jobs: granting a construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and appearing with executives of telecom giant Charter Communications as they pledged to hire thousands of new employees.
Separately, Trump’s treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said at an event Friday that he will push Congress to enact comprehensive tax reform by its August recess, though he acknowledged this might not be possible. White House press secretary Sean Spicer promptly tweeted a story about Mnuchin's push on tax reform, which Trump has said he is eager to get started on and will be “fun.”
To a degree apparently he didn’t expect, Trump has gotten bogged down in the House debate over overhauling the Affordable Care Act. Even if the bill passes Friday, the slog will continue. Passage in the Senate appears even more difficult.
— President Trump (@POTUS) March 24, 2017
For a president who likes winning, the Keystone permit was a chance to remind people of another promise on which Trump was elected: major investments in the country’s infrastructure. Appearing in the Oval Office with executives from TransCanada, the Calgary-based firm that has been trying to win approval for the pipeline for nearly a decade, Trump called the Keystone “the first of many infrastructure projects” that he would approve to put more Americans to work.
The $8 billion project would span 1,200 miles, connecting Alberta’s massive tar sands crude with pipelines and refineries on the Texas Gulf coast that are particularly well-suited to handling the thick oil.
“It's a great day for American jobs and a historic moment for North America and energy independence,” Trump declared. “It’s going to be an incredible pipeline, greatest technology known to man or woman. Today we begin to make things right and do things right.”
The new president has called on Congress to approve a plan to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investments, including roads, bridges, airports and energy projects.
Both that initiative and tax reform have been waiting in line behind health care, in part because of budget math. Republicans are counting on savings from their Affordable Care Act overhaul to help fund the “massive” tax cuts Trump has promised for corporations and middle-class families.
At a campaign-style rally in Louisville, earlier this week, Trump argued that one big reason to act on health care was so that “we can pass massive tax reform, which we can’t do until this happens.”
He made the same argument for the renegotiation of trade deals, another big campaign promise. “As soon we get the health care finished, I’m looking forward to these trade deals,” Trump said, later adding, “We’re going to do something with NAFTA you’re going to be very impressed with.”
While the White House continued to lobby Friday for House passage of the health-care bill, Trump made no predictions about the outcome. Asked by a reporter what he would do if the bill fails, Trump shrugged and said, “We’ll see what happens.”
He then went back to trying to make other things happen.