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Often at odds, Trump and GOP relish tax win, court picks

  • FILE - In this Dec. 22, 2017, file photo. the U.S. Capitol in the early morning in Washington. Donald Trump’s unpredictable, pugnacious approach to the presidency often worked against him as Republicans navigated a tumultuous but ultimately productive year in Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite

  • FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2017, file photoPresident Donald Trump surrounded by members of congress and supporters as he speaks during an event on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, to acknowledge the final passage of tax overhaul legislation by Congress. Trump’s unpredictable, pugnacious approach to the presidency often worked against him as Republicans navigated a tumultuous but ultimately productive year in Congress.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) Carolyn Kaster

  • FILE - In this March 22, 2017, file photo, then-Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks during his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Donald Trump’s unpredictable, pugnacious approach to the presidency often worked against him as Republicans navigated a tumultuous but ultimately productive year in Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. Scott Applewhite

  • FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with House Republicans in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. From left are, Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Trump, Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. Trump’s unpredictable, pugnacious approach to the presidency often worked against him as Republicans navigated a tumultuous but ultimately productive year in Congress. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) Evan Vucci

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, listens as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks before a meeting with congressional leaders including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Trump’s unpredictable, pugnacious approach to the presidency often worked against him as Republicans navigated a tumultuous but ultimately productive year in Congress.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) Alex Brandon

  • Demonstrators rally outside of the Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington earlier this year. AP file



Associated Press
Thursday, December 28, 2017

Donald Trump’s unpredictable, pugnacious approach to the presidency often worked against him as Republicans navigated a tumultuous but ultimately productive year in Congress.

Trump’s major accomplishments, confirmation of conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and a major tax cut, actually came with relatively little drama. But Republicans often struggled to stay on the rails, particularly with a big pratfall on health care and repeated struggles to accomplish the very basics of governing.

Several shutdown deadlines came and went, and a default on the government’s debt was averted, thanks to a momentary rapprochement with top Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer. But a promised solution to the plight of young immigrants brought to the country illegally as infants or children was delayed, while a routine reauthorization of a program providing health care to 9 million low-income kids stalled as well.

Often it seemed as if Trump were more interested in picking fights on Twitter than the nuts and bolts of legislating.

A catchall spending deal in May got relatively little attention for what it accomplished, overshadowed by Trump’s threat to shut the government down if he didn’t get a better deal the next time. But there was no next time – and about $1.2 trillion in unfinished agency budgets got punted into the new year.

Still, there was no shortage of drama this year on Capitol Hill. Trump displayed a penchant for picking fights with fellow Republicans: Arizona’s two senators John McCain and Jeff Flake; Tennessee’s Bob Corker and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Onetime Republican rivals such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came firmly into Trump’s fold – even as Corker and Flake, both facing potentially difficult primary races, announced their retirements.

Several mass shootings around the country and the near-assassination of House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana failed to dislodge legislation on background checks or so-called bump stocks, though Scalise made an emotional return to the Capitol in the fall. McCain was diagnosed with a deadly form of brain cancer – and soon after cast a decisive vote against the Senate’s health care bill.

The nation’s debate on sexual misconduct swept over the Capitol as well, forcing the resignations of Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. Several other lawmakers announced premature retirements and the somnolent Ethics Committee launched a handful of investigations, too.

Then there was the Alabama special election to fill the seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Establishment Republicans such as McConnell swung forcefully behind appointed Sen. Luther Strange, but firebrand conservative Roy Moore still took the nomination. Then, after several women said he’d molested or dated them as teenagers more than four decades ago, Moore lost the long-held GOP seat to Democrat Doug Jones. That evoked parallels to the 2010 Senate win of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which presaged the 2010 tidal wave, that time against Democrats.