The fact that House leaders deemed the meeting a success underscores one of the central paradoxes of this presidency: Trump’s decision to speak on a piece of crucial legislation often leaves lawmakers bracing with fear. Rather than expect this president to explain the nuances of a bill to members on the fence— causing them to view their policy quibbles differently, perhaps—leadership often merely hopes he’ll leave the room without making news. In other words, Trump’s potential to carry a piece of legislation over the line is minimal; his ability to implode all progress is great. It’s a stark departure from administrations past, in which the president frequently served as a star voice for his party’s legislation, acting as a crucial go-between for warring camps.
“Every time President Trump weighs in on a bill and doesn’t cause complete chaos in the Republican conference should be considered a win by leadership,” one senior Republican aide told me. “However, the question on this bill is less about what the president says today, and more about what he will say after the bill passes. I still don’t think anyone knows the answer to that.”