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Trump Is Still Searching for His First Major Legislative Win

His failure to get a big legislative victory so far raises the stakes for Republicans to succeed on taxes.
Image: Trump pauses to speak to the press while boarding Air Force One
President Donald Trump pauses to speak to the press while boarding Air Force One at Morristown Airport on Sept. 24, 2017 in Morristown, New Jersey.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Trump is still looking for that first major legislative victory

This week’s major events in Washington — Senate Republicans surrendering on health care again, and the GOP’s fairly rocky tax rollout (White House economic adviser Gary Cohn couldn’t promise that some middle-class Americans wouldn’t see their taxes go up) — drive home this point. Now more than eight months into his job, President Trump is still looking for his first major legislative victory.

So far, there have been 60 public laws passed under this Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress, but they’ve mostly been minor ones. Some examples:

  • The Bob Dole Congressional Gold Medal Act
  • The Social Security Number Fraud Prevention Act of 2017
  • The Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act
  • The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017
  • The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act
  • The GAO Access and Oversight Act of 2017

Maybe the most significant legislation that Trump has signed into law has been reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs. But there’s been nothing comparable to Barack Obama’s stimulus (which he signed into law in February 2009) or George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts (signed into law in June 2001).

And that fact raises the stakes for Republicans to succeed on taxes. As MSNBC’s Garrett Haake asked Sen. Lindsey Graham:

Haake: How imperative is it to get something done now?Graham: It’s the difference between succeeding as a party and failing. It’s the difference between having a majority in 2018 or losing it. It’s the difference between one term and two.

And on taxes, Republicans will probably need help from Democrats, at least in the Senate, where there still are a handful of GOP deficit hawks. As we learned on health care, with 52 GOP senators, Republicans have very little margin for error if they attempt to pass legislation by a party-line vote.

New York Times: Trump could save more than $1.1 billion from his tax plan

Our colleague Benjy Sarlin wrote that President Trump, if his net worth is REALLY $10 billion, could potentially save $4 billion in taxes for his children if the estate tax is eliminated — as the GOP’s tax plan calls for.

Well, The New York Times — using that released 2005 Trump tax return, as well as Bloomberg’s estimate that Trump’s wealth is $2.86 billion — says that Trump would end up saving $1.1 billion under the GOP plan.

About $1.1 billion of that savings comes from repealing the estate tax (40 percent of his net worth), $31 million in savings comes from repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax (based on that 2005 tax return), $16 million in savings comes from taxing certain business income at 25 percent, and Trump would see an increase of $3 million to $5 million in repealing certain deductions.

Add it all up, as the Times does, and it’s a cool $1 billion-plus.

Trump’s very defensive tweets on Puerto Rico

Given the criticism that the Trump administration has faced over its response to the devastation in Puerto Rico, President Trump has fired off these tweets in the last 12 hours:

Puerto Rico is devastated. Phone system, electric grid many roads, gone. FEMA and First Responders are amazing. Governor said "great job!"Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello just stated: "The Administration and the President, every time we've spoken, they've delivered.........The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!

Price to pay back $51,000 for using private jets — but that’s not the true cost of a private jet flight

NBC's Dartunorro Clark: “Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Thursday he will write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury to reimburse taxpayers for thousands of dollars in private flights.”

“‘I will take no more private charter flights as Secretary of HHS. No exceptions,’ Price said in a statement. ‘Today, I will write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.’”

“A department spokeswoman told NBC News that Price would pay back a total of $51,887.31.”

But note the word “seat” in that statement. A seat is not the FULL COST of a private jet. “The [HHS] spokeswoman did not disclose if others who boarded the private flights with Price would also reimburse taxpayers,” Clark writes.

Sinema makes it official in Arizona

On Thursday, Rep. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., officially announced that she was running for the Senate seat held by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Sinema’s move was widely expected, and it gives Democrats a pretty good shot at winning the seat in 2018.

Flake is one of the most vulnerable 2018 incumbents — either in a GOP primary or general election.