As President Donald Trump wraps up his European trip Saturday, he will return to tackle a stalled domestic agenda in Washington that includes health care reform, a Republican effort that has bogged down in the Senate.
While Trump’s European trip was a mix of pageantry, protests and a high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the focus at home was on health care with protests in several states opposed to Republican overhaul efforts in the Senate.
Anti-Trump demonstrators were also out in force over the July 4th holiday, some calling for his impeachment, a reminder that the country remains divided over his presidency.
Shortly before he left for Europe, Trump offered an upbeat assessment of his first six months in office. “The economy is blazing and on every front we are doing well. And we do have challenges, but we will handle those challenges, believe me,” Trump told a crowd gathered for an Independence Day picnic at the White House on July 4th.
There was also no letup in Trump’s battle with the news media, including his promotion of a mock video on Twitter in which he was portrayed knocking down someone with a CNN logo over his face.
The president continued his critique during a news conference in Poland. “We want to see fair press. I think it is a very important thing. We don’t want fake news.”
Some Republicans see that as a distraction. “You know, I just hope he grows into this job and understands you need to be a unifier,” Ohio Governor John Kasich said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program.
Senate deliberations on health care resume this coming week and what eventually emerges from the process could have a major impact on whether Trump can claim victory in delivering on a central campaign promise.
Republicans are divided over a plan that could cost more than 20 million Americans health insurance coverage. “Even if ideologically they might have been opposed to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in the first place, they are very concerned about rolling back that coverage going forward,” said Matthew Fiedler, an expert on health care policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Trump’s public approval rating hovers around or in many cases below 40 percent in most polls. The Gallup Daily Tracking poll has had him at below 40 percent approval for most of the last week.
But his core supporters, for the most part, appear to be sticking with him. “I think the first six months is not a perfect gauge of when to judge a president on these matters,” said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “It often takes a long time to get legislation done. So at this point he is not doing so well but it is still relatively early in the legislative game.” Fortier was a guest on VOA’s “Encounter” program.