Trump aides predicting ‘brutal’ September – Politico

Inside President Donald Trump’s White House, no one seems to be looking forward to September.

Senior officials have described the coming month as “brutal,” “bad” or “really tough” because of the confluence of complicated issues — but they also say it’s pivotal to getting the presidency back on course.

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Aides hope to have a better blueprint for how the president wants to proceed on a series of thorny issues — the nation’s debt ceiling, the 2018 federal budget, tax reform, infrastructure spending and perhaps another stab at repealing Obamacare — after a series of meetings in New York this week.

Their goal is to partially temper Trump’s expectations, hammer out some compromises and get a competing band of aides on the same page. The month has taken on outsized importance among some top aides and outside advisers, who view it as key to getting the presidency on a better track.

“The stakes are very high in September,” said Jenny Beth Martin, who leads the Tea Party Patriots, a conservative grassroots group. “There is a lot to do in a very short period of time.”

Trump, who is impatient, wants it all done immediately, said people close to the president— and he has ratcheted up pressure on aides in recent weeks, even though he doesn’t always engage with the substance of issues.

What makes the month harder is many of the fights are in Congress, where the president and his team have little control.

“The President has made clear his commitment to getting healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure passed in Congress. There shouldn’t have to be a choice,” said Kelly Love, a White House spokeswoman.

Trump’s aides have prepared lengthy memos and presentations on the legislative calendar for Trump in New York and Washington next week to see how he wants to handle the policy debates.

Short is pushing to handle many of the budget issues quicklyand try to move quickly to tax reform, a strategy supported by Gary Cohn, the president’s economic adviser, and Steven Mnuchin, his Treasury secretary. But advisers are still wrangling with the fine details of a tax plan. Bannon wants a higher tax on the wealthy, which could go nowhere, and while he previously wasn’t involved in health care, Bannon has recently inserted himself into that fight, administration officials said.

The top headaches for Trump’s White House are the Sept. 30 deadlines for raising the debt ceiling and funding the upcoming year’s budget. The White House also wants to push agenda items, like more border money and defense spending, while also trying to curb deficits. White House officials, including Bannon, Short and chief of staff John Kelly, have told others they expect those fights to be messy.

The outcome some White House officials fear is a three-month budgetextension, only postponing the fight until December. Internally, White House officials are still battling over spending levels in the budget, according to several administration officials. Pressure is likely to rise from the conservative House Freedom Caucus for spending cuts for a budget and the debt ceiling, creating another clash with moderates like the one that tanked health care reform.

Trump, aides said, is determined to get money for the wall and immigration measures — and he is likely to balk at any plan that doesn’t give him a win on a signature campaign issue.

Advisers are also deciding whether it makes sense to put considerable effort into reviving the health care fight immediately, as Trump wants to do, and whether to delay tax reform for a month or so while handling other issues — a move that would dismay important outside constituencies. “Tax reform isn’t going to come out as soon as we first wanted,” said one senior administration official with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

A number of senior officials would quietly prefer to leave health care alone after a bruising fight that climaxed in Trump’s public clashes with McConnell. While some White House officials have worked quietly with governors on securing support for a state-based block-grant plan, and others have worked with the Freedom Caucus on a repeal-only vote, there is little sign of momentum, senior White House officials said.