It’s should be clear by now that the unexpected is what to expect most from President Trump. Since angering fellow Republicans last month by making a deal with Democrats to fund the government, Trump has made a series of decisions that show bipartisanship is just another commodity to him, not a goal.
Trump’s continued efforts to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act show he has no intention of working with Democrats to improve the law. The Health and Human Services Administration issued rules Friday to make it easier for employers and insurers to invoke religious or moral objections to avoid the ACA requirement that contraceptives be covered by insurance as part of preventive care.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the rule change reflected Trump’s concern for the freedom to practice one’s faith. “I don’t understand why that should be an issue,” she said.
It’s an issue because the new rules aren’t about faith, they’re about shoring up Trump’s support from social conservatives.
California has filed suit, saying Trump’s new rules will leave millions of women without access to birth control and consequently increase contraceptive costs to state-funded programs. Other states could make that same argument, and should with their own litigation.
There also was no bipartisanship in Trump’s announcement Monday that the government will rescind Clean Power Plan rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by power plants. Emissions from coal-fired plants impact global warming and the deadly weather it has spawned in recent years.
EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced the rule change in coal country, Hazard, Ky. Standing nearby was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). McConnell was all smiles, but he can’t get too comfortable with the administration, given Trump’s mercurial temperament. McConnell was berated by Trump for failing to get a repeal of the ACA through the Senate.
Trump also has cast shade on any hope of a bipartisan immigration agreement. The president announced in September that he would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but he expressed sympathy for the “Dreamers” whose parents brought them into this country illegally as children.
Too steep, however, is Trump’s price to keep nearly 700,000 immigrants enrolled in DACA from being deported by March.
In return, he wants Democrats to agree to pay for a border wall, which he once insisted would be paid by Mexico; support efforts to withhold federal grants from sanctuary cities, like Philadelphia, which refuse to have their police act like an arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and back his plan to stop unaccompanied minors fleeing gang violence in Central America from entering the United States.
Trump doesn’t seem to really care if Democrats come around to his way of thinking. His agenda isn’t about compromise. It’s about keeping this country as divided over social issues as it was when he won the White House. The formula worked for him then, and he believes it will again in a reelection bid. But what a price this country will pay if his cynical approach to government continues to prevail.