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GOP despairs at inability to deliver

The Republican Party is more powerful than it’s been in more than a decade — and yet it has never seemed so weak.

Continuing chaos in the White House has been punctuated by the failure to deliver on the GOP’s seven-year pledge to overhaul Obamacare, and has many asking whether the party can capitalize on the sweeping victories it has achieved at the federal, state, and local levels.

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Ahead of this week's crucial Senate vote on health care, White House aides are already considering how to distance President Donald Trump from Congress and how to go after the Republicans who vote no — an idea the president seems fond of, according to people who have spoken to him. Several people said he plans to keep up the fight, no matter how this week's vote goes.

He threatened Republicans on Twitter Sunday, saying they would face electoral consequences, and complained about his party not defending him — even though congressional Republicans are tired of defending him all the time.

“It's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President," he wrote.

Meanwhile, those close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say they are frustrated that the president has shown little focus on his political agenda, particularly health care. Trump's interview with the New York Times this week, for example, where he raged about Attorney General Jeff Sessions instead of promoting health care, was "political malpractice," one senior GOP aide said.

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With control of both Congress and the White House — and yet no major legislative successes to point to — the Republican Party is finding itself stuck. A GOP Congress is frustrated with the president, and is unsure what will happen next in his daily West Wing drama. And Trump wants to sign legislation to show he is effective, and is frustrated bills are not on his desk.

A sudden White House shakeup on Friday made it even more clear that Trump, who campaigned as an outsider, is determined to govern as one, too — and not listen to McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan and other orthodox allies. The president expanded the power of the political neophytes in his administration, elevating the Manhattan hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci to White House communications director, at the cost of an operative – press secretary Sean Spicer, who announced his resignation on Friday — with years of Washington experience.

Spicer was not the only establishment casualty. Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff who, at least in title holds one of the most powerful jobs in Washington, has been largely sidelined. Several West Wing aides suggested he should quit — and wondered Sunday why he doesn't, according to White House aides and advisers.


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Blue Dogs eye comeback in 2018

The Blue Dog Coalition, a fading wing of the Democratic Caucus in recent years, is leaning on a controversial ally as it tries to regain a toehold on power in the House: President Donald Trump.

The group of moderate and conservative Democrats, which was all but wiped out when Republicans swept the House in 2010, has been slowly rebuilding its membership.

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And with Democrats eager to woo the white working-class voters who flocked to Trump, the coalition is prodding party leaders to support Blue Dog-backed candidates, saying that’s the key to taking back the House in 2018. It’s a push that is quickly running into conflict with the party’s energized left flank.

“People want to purify,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), one of the Blue Dog’s three co-chairs, said about the Democratic base’s surge to the left. “[But] without Blue Dogs, we don’t have a majority. That’s the bottom line.”

The Blue Dogs are also meeting with top Trump officials on tax reform and other issues, causing heartburn with some colleagues who insist all-out resistance — not working with an administration they loathe — is the winning formula for next year. And they’re ready for ideological battle, determined to keep the Democratic Caucus rooted in what they say are its defining big-tent values, despite the rising progressive passion brought on by Trump’s election.

“The Democratic Caucus likes to talk about diversity, and we’re an important part of that diversity that too often gets overlooked,” Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), a Blue Dog co-chair, said in an interview in his office.

The Blue Dogs, who assembled after the Republican takeover of Congress in the mid-1990s, once boasted more than 50 members. But in recent years they have been relegated to a marginal role in the Democratic Caucus as their numbers dwindled, particularly in the South, and as the party moved away from the group’s more fiscally and socially moderate stances.

With only 18 members, the coalition represents less than 10 percent of House Democrats. In recent years, it has been eclipsed in membership by a similar group, the centrist New Democrat Coalition, which boasts 61 members and is more socially liberal.

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But the Blue Dogs added to their ranks in the last election — three of the six seats Democrats picked up in November are held by coalition members. And now they’re gearing up for an aggressive comeback they say will put the House back in Democratic hands.

The idea is already receiving pushback from prominent progressive Democrats, who argue that building on the liberal enthusiasm unleashed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) heading into the midterms is how Democrats can succeed, particularly in tough districts that may have embraced Trump’s populist message.

“I don’t think Blue Dog politics are necessarily winning


Priebus sidelined as Washington outsiders' power grows

Reince Priebus took the punishing job of President Donald Trump's chief of staff with the idea that he would stick it out for at least one year.

Six months in, with one of his top allies in the West Wing — press secretary Sean Spicer — on his way out, Priebus is in defensive mode, his role diminished and an internal rival hogging the limelight.

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Trump's decision to bring Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci into the role of communications director shows the rising power of political outsiders and the diminished influence of establishment figures — which Priebus, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, epitomizes.

One White House official and two outside advisers said that while Scaramucci was brought into the White House for the communications job, he's considered an internal candidate to eventually succeed Priebus as chief of staff. There are also a handful of outside candidates.

The unexpected hire has raised questions of whether more shake-ups are coming, even as the White House has tried to downplay its internal discord. The instability has made it difficult for the administration to fend off questions about ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia and to move forward an embattled legislative agenda.

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Despite frequent reports his position is in jeopardy, Priebus hopes to finish out his year, according to people close to him. He is eyeing another big hurdle this week of getting the health care bill to pass through the Senate, defenders said Sunday.

"Reince is focused on driving the president's bold agenda, and that has been and always will be his top priority," White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said.

Still, his stature in the White House appears to be shrinking. Priebus was fiercely opposed to hiring Scaramucci, saying the former financier had no prior experience in government communications. They have been at odds with each other since Scaramucci was passed over for the director of public liaison role in February.

Scaramucci made clear to reporters on Friday that he reports directly to Trump, not Priebus, even though the chief of staff would typically oversee communications and other portfolios.

Special assistant and social media director Dan Scavino also tweeted on Saturday that he reports directly to the president.

"In a normal White House, every staffer reports to the chief of staff," said Republican strategist Alex Conant. “Any staffer who believes that they don't report to the chief of staff is going to be a potential headache for the chief of staff."

Scaramucci also said he plans to reset the culture of the White House communications shop so that it is focused on protecting the president. Republicans in and out of the White House have grumbled that the press operation, which is staffed with RNC alums including outgoing press secretary

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