Trump's team admits that the Russia investigation is slowing down its big agenda items
"There's no doubt that keeping members focused on investigations detracts from our legislative agenda, detracts from what we're trying to deliver for the American people," Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters during a briefing on Monday.
The admission comes as Trump has accumulated no legislative victories during his first months in office - but plenty of news regarding the ties between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials.Even as Trump begins a push for one of his biggest campaign promises - a massive investment in infrastructure - the focus in Congress this week is the testimony Thursday of fired FBI Director James Comey in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
While Short attributed some of the legislative struggles to the Russia investigation, which Trump has called a "witch hunt," much of it comes down to divisions in the party itself.
Republicans' healthcare overhaul hit initial snags in the House or Representatives because of disagreements between conservative and moderate members of the conference, which delayed the legislation's passage for months. The same divide has slowed the Senate's own rewrite of the bill.
Short also said Monday that the White House is putting pressure on Congress to address several key issues before the five-week summer recess in August, including the critical move of raising the nation's debt ceiling.
Both Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, told Congress that the debt ceiling would be hit sooner than the original fall deadline they expected.
"What I think he will understand from both of them is the need to raise the debt ceiling before Congress adjourns this summer, and that is the deadline and the timeline we have given to Congress," Short told reporters.Other highlights from the briefing:
- The Trump administration wants healthcare finished before the August recess. Short said the White House wants the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare out of Congress "before they adjourn for August recess."
- Short said the administration would accept a package of tax cuts if a larger tax-reform bill can't be passed this year. He also said the White House wants the bill to be revenue-neutral and said Democrats should come on board. "Ideally that will become a bipartisan effort," Short said about tax reform.
Trump is set to meet Tuesday with congressional leaders to address healthcare and tax cuts.
"Big meeting today with Republican leadership concerning Tax Cuts and Healthcare. We are all pushing hard - must get it right!" Trump tweeted.