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Republican voter excitement depressed after Obamacare repeal failure, says White House official

What do Tuesday’s election results favoring Democrats mean for President Trump’s agenda? Marc Short, the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, joins Judy Woodruff to look ahead.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now for the Trump administration’s perspective on last night’s results, and what they may mean for the president’s agenda.

    With me now, the White House director of legislative affairs, Marc Short.

    Thank you very much for being with us.

    So, you just heard, Marc Short, what Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic Party, had to say, that Democrats are recruiting strong candidates everywhere, and this was a strong beginning for them.

    How do you see it, yesterday’s results?

  • Marc Short:

    Well, Judy, thanks for having me on first.

    I think that, as we look over the last year, there’s no doubt the Democrats secured two victories last night in Democrat states, and yet Republicans have won five congressional seats in seats that were open seats.

    And so, on the federal level, we have continued to add. We have 240 House Republicans now hoping to advance our agenda. And so I think that people can read a lot into each of their things that they want.

    And the reality is, Virginia continues to shift to the left. Virginia has continued to become a more and more Democrat state. And I don’t think it’s a surprise that they won last night. I think Ed’s a very talented and smart political adviser, but I don’t think we were that surprised by the results.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ed Gillespie.

  • Marc Short:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You’re not surprised. And we noticed, of course, the president — as soon as the results were called in Virginia, the president was pretty critical of Ed Gillespie. He said – He didn’t embrace me enough.

    What more should Ed Gillespie have done?

  • Marc Short:

    Well, I think that we were disappointed in Ed’s defeat, for sure, but I think the president is making the point that the president wasn’t invited to come into the state and campaign with Ed.

    And he feels like certainly the left was animated and rallied. And, unfortunately, I don’t think we activated our base in the same way on the Republican side.

    And I think that that’s simply the point the president’s making. But, again, we take comfort in the Republican seats we have continued to hold on to. In many cases, special elections in Georgia, people were predicting Democrats were going to take that seat from us, and they didn’t.

    We have won seats in Kansas and Montana and last night in Utah.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I noticed today that the chair of the Republican Party, Ronna McDaniel, said that she thought Ed Gillespie did sufficiently embrace the president in the campaign.

  • Marc Short:

    I think that — again, I believe that Ed is one of the smartest political people I know. I think he’s won a lot of races for other people.

    I think, unfortunately, this is a difficult year for him to run. And I think it’s a state that’s become more and more Democrat over the years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What we are seeing, Marc Short, though, in Virginia and other places, where there were races yesterday, is energy on the part of Democrats.

  • Marc Short:

    Sure.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Many of them do seem to be motivated to defeat Republicans, to defeat the president.

  • Marc Short:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How worried are you and others in the White House about that next year in the midterm?

  • Marc Short:

    I think that next year’s a long way off, Judy.

    I think the way that we can make sure that our base animated is to ensure that we deliver on the promises we made. I think you look back to when the president was elected, there are several things he campaigned on.

    He campaigned on the Supreme Court, which he delivered on with Judge Gorsuch. He campaigned on regulatory relief, which he’s delivered on. He campaigned on tax relief, which we’re about to deliver on.

    I think one of our challenges right now, though, is, one of his other promises was repealing Obamacare. And I think, after six years of campaign promises that Republicans would do that, when given the chance, they didn’t.

    And I think you saw a lot of depressed excitement among Republicans after the summer, when that effort failed. So, we need to get back to delivering on what we promised we would do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of that, let’s talk about one of the things you’re trying to deliver on. And that is tax reform.

    Its originated — the plan, proposal has originated in the House, but it’s already running into some headwinds. And then, just today, you have the boy partisan joint committee — congressional Committee on Taxation saying that there’s a problem here, that after a certain number of years — yes, it starts out helping the middle class, but after the year 2027, the percentage of people in the middle class being helped will start to go down.

    That gets at the very fundamental argument for this, doesn’t it?

  • Marc Short:

    Let’s keep in mind three things the president said he wanted in tax relief.

    First is middle-income relief. Second is to provide corporate relief, because, frankly, what’s happened is, our jobs have left America because our corporate tax system is outdated. We need to bring those jobs back and give corporations less reasons to avert.

    And third is to simplify the tax code and get rid of so much special treatment that is there and special deductions.

    Go back to your first point on what the Joint Taxation — Joint Committee on Taxation said. They also said it’s a net tax decrease for every income level over the 10 years.

    Now, what you point out is, individually, in a particular year, the way that some of those specific credits roll out, there could be a bump in a particular year. But you look over the 10 years, and it’s a tax decrease for those families. It’s what we promised and what we’re going to deliver on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

     But you still have, as I know you know very well, folks out there who have looked on the effect on corporations who are saying, this is a boon to many corporations that already get so many tax breaks.

    And you have got the Senate, Republicans in the Senate looking at it and saying, wait a minute, we want to delay the corporate tax cuts.

    How do you and the White House look at that?

  • Marc Short:

    Well, let’s keep in mind that the relief we’re providing the tax rates is because the international average for developed countries is now 21 percent. In America, it’s 35 percent.

    It’s the reason that so many companies have left our shores and gone overseas. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we think that Trump won many of the Industrial Midwest states, because that’s where they have been hit the most.

    What we’re doing, though, is eliminating many of those deductions, Judy, that you mentioned. That is the tradeoff. We think that this tax code shouldn’t be for those who are the wealthiest, who are able to hire lobbyists and protect their special interests.

    So, we’re cleaning out the tax code and, in exchange, lowering the rates. That’s the objective.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about, though, Marc Short, this notion that the House of Representatives come up with one proposal? It’s pretty clear the Senate Republicans are coming up with a fairly different proposal.

    Where is the White House going to come down on this?

  • Marc Short:

    Well, Judy, we have worked for many months together. We had meetings with the speaker and with the leader and with the chairman of Ways and Means, Kevin Brady, as well as with Chairman Hatch, to make sure that we were on the same page.

    Ultimately, there was a few thing that we couldn’t agree on, but I think that, as you see these two plans roll out, 90 percent will be aligned, and so the process will work. The House will get their bill done. We think they are on schedule tomorrow to get it out of committee and to get it completed in the House before Thanksgiving.

    The Senate will then have their turn. And the legislative process will work. We will have a conference report to resolve the differences.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about health care?

    The polls have shown that was at top of mind for many of those who went to the polls, all of those who went to the polls in Virginia. Has the White House given up on getting health care reform passed? Because it’s clearly been moved to the sidelines as you have moved on to tax reform.

  • Marc Short:

     No, we haven’t given up on that. That’s a promise that we have made, and we’re going to deliver on that promise.

    I think the reality is that the way that this will work is, we will need to do it on budget reconciliation next year. So, it will likely be a 2018 exercise. I think that what we found during the Graham-Cassidy effort — as you recall, that was an idea to block-grant dollars back to states to give them more flexibility on their health care plans — is that ending up gaining more attention and attraction.

    But some of the senators who are initially no were concerned about the process, and they want to have a longer process play out. But I think they are more receptive to the concept. So, we think that that has a lot of merit next year.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you do think it can be resurrected?

  • Marc Short:

    Oh, we’re — we’re determined to make sure that we deliver on the promises of repealing what we think is crushing the American people and the health care system right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, of course, I’m asking because this is something that was originally said this was going to happen right away, as soon as Donald Trump takes office as president, and here we are, nine months later.

  • Marc Short:

    Well, sure.

    As I mentioned at the start, I think we were disappointed that that was something that many Republican had promised to do for six years. And they have a president now who is willing to sign it. And so we’re disappointed they didn’t get it done. But we’re not going to stop on our efforts to try.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Marc Short, the director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, thank you very much.

  • Marc Short:

    Judy, thanks for having me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We appreciate it.

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