Trump Juggles Global Hot Spots, Pressures at Home
President Trump was a study in contrasts Thursday: cheered to commend China for working to thwart North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but concerned that Tehran is violating the “spirit” of the Iran nuclear deal; eager to say Europe’s strength and unity remain “very, very important” to the United States, but firm that tackling political instability in Libya is not America’s “role.”
Trump told reporters that defeating terrorism in “Iraq or Libya or anywhere else” is a “primary role” for his administration, and he described shootings of a policeman and a gunman in Paris Thursday as terror attacks, hours before French President Francois Hollande announced the same conclusion.
During a news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump sketched an evolving U.S. foreign policy that some critics maintain is ad hoc but supporters regard as tough-minded and realistic.
Trump will make his first international trip as president in late May, attending a NATO meeting in Brussels and the annual summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, hosted this year in Sicily.
The president also said he wants to meet Pope Francis in Italy, an interest affirmed this week by the White House, but a bit of a surprise inside the Vatican. An audience with the pope is not yet confirmed, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters following the news conference.
Looking ahead to next week on Capitol Hill, Trump said he backs the tenor of negotiations on the Hill to keep the government funded via a stopgap measure before an April 28 deadline. That priority, he added, may come before his companion ambition to bring a rebooted health care bill to the House floor in the wake of a failed attempt in March.
“I think we want to keep the government open. Don't you agree?” Trump said, spreading his arms wide in the East Room.
There were no hints from the president of brinksmanship tied to conservative ideological demands to keep the government funded. Earlier Thursday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that in any stopgap bill, the White House would insist on at least partial funding for Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border with Mexico. Democrats are strongly opposed, as are some Republican lawmakers. Mulvaney’s comments introduced new drama to the ongoing negotiations.
Trump’s concession to a prolonged glide path for health care conflicted with some White House advisers who remain hopeful that 216 votes for a new version of a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act could emerge by next week. Trump will mark his 100th day in office on April 29.
“We have a good chance of getting [a health care bill] soon,” the president said. “I'd like to say next week, but it will be -- I believe we will get it. And whether it's next week or shortly thereafter.”
House Republican leaders, who rarely turn to the White House for advice about floor schedules, have acknowledged Trump’s eagerness to keep health care reform legislation on a front burner. But House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have said their priority next week is to avert a government shutdown.