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David Gergen Handicaps the Republican Agenda

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David Gergen, who has worked for four presidents — three Republicans and one Democrat — sees tragedy in the triumphs of both Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

Addressing a filled ballroom at this week’s Envestnet Advisor Summit, Gergen explained, “President Obama triumphed when Congress passed health care reform after seven other presidents and tried and failed,” but the very narrow victory in the Senate (by one vote) and House (by five votes) meant that health care became a political football, and it remains that today, said Gergen.

In Thursday’s narrow victory in the House to repeal and replace Obamacare, “Trump got zero Democratic votes,” said Gergen. “The tragedy is that on the big issues of our time we can’t seem to come together. We have lost something in our politics that represented progress.”

In contrast, he noted that the biggest domestic legislation since Franklin D. Roosevelt, including Social Security, Medicare and the Civil Rights Act, passed with supermajorities in both houses of Congress, and included Republican votes.

(Related on ThinkAdvisor: House Narrowly Passes ACA Change Bill)

As it stands, said Gergen, the Senate will “most likely” pass its own Obamacare repeal and replacement bill, leaving open the question about whether the most conservative members of the House, who defeated the first repeal and replace bill, will support it.,

“It will take the Senate weeks to reconsider the bill, then it goes back to the House, [continuing] a long arduous journey with uncertain outcomes,” said Gergen.

He suggested that people watch how the public responds to passage of the health care bill. “Some polls show that Obamacare is more popular than plans to repeal and replace it,” said Gergen.

Especially controversial is a provision that lets states essentially allow insurers to charge more for people with pre-existing conditions by putting them in a high-risk pool. About one-quarter to one-half of adults in the U.S. have one, said Gergen.

Still, if Republicans can pass a health care bill they will have “the wind at their backs as they move on to the rest of agenda: taxes, infrastructure and deregulation,” said Gergen.

He doesn’t expect smooth sailing, however. “The prospects of massive tax reform done are close to zero but prospects of getting tax cuts down are much better.”

Gergen expects the tax cuts will be “smaller and slower” than what the White House has been proposing – which includes 15% corporate tax rate, down from 35% — if the Republican chooses to pass the bill through the reconcilation process, which requires a simple majority rather than a fillibuster two-thirds in the Senate. In that case the legislation must be revenue neutral — not add to the deficit — over a period of 10 years.

“Getting tax legislation through will be at least as difficult as getting health care done,” said Gergen.

He’s more optimistic about deregulation plans from the White House, including the loosening of rules for the financial industry. Jamie Dimon and others are visiting the White House frequently and Trump is listening, said Gergen.

‘”You will not see the DOL fiduciary rule go into effect …. And there will be less regulation on the banks.”

Gergen has hopes for the government, not necessarily in the Capitol but in cities and states. “I honestly believe our politics will change when new people come in at the bottom.”

 — Related on ThinkAdvisor:


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