The three things that could unhinge Trump administration next year (and it's not the Democrats)
That didn't take long.
Less than a full week after Donald Trump was elected president, Republican Senator Rand Paul (KY) publicly announced that several of the senior people being considered for cabinet positions in the new administration were unacceptable and that he will vote against them if they are nominated.
Senator Paul's statement may be sincere; he actually might not approve of the rumored cabinet choices. Or he may be letting the Trump team know early on that his vote shouldn't be considered automatic and that he's going to want something in return for it. After all, that's how Washington often — or perhaps typically — works.
But it's also a reminder that, for all the talk about Trump being able to get things done easy and quickly because the GOP will control the White House and Congress, the biggest and longest lasting threat to his ability to accomplish anything will come from other Republicans.
Here are the top 3 Republican-caused legislative challenges the Trump agenda could face in the next Congress.
Any 3 Republican Senators
With a likely 52-48 Senate majority after the run-off in Louisiana is settled, Trump will only be able to lose 2 votes on any legislative initiative. At 50-50, Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, will vote to break a tie and give the president a victory.
But as Paul's announcement indicates, Republican unity won't be automatic. Although it's not always likely to be the same 3 GOP senators on every issue, it's not hard to believe that there will always be a small group of Republicans willing to oppose the Trump White House on the most controversial votes . It's even easier to imagine GOP opposition will develop if the Trump administration is mired in controversy, appears not to be in control, loses some early fights with Congress or gets stuck in a foreign policy or military problem.
And remember…it will only take 3.
This assumes, of course, that Senate Democrats stay united against Trump initiatives, and that might not be a safe assumption given that 10 of the 25 Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018 are from states Trump won.
House Freedom Caucus
The House Freedom Caucus is in the best possible position to torpedo Trump legislative initiatives in the House because, as was true in the last Congress, its approximately 45 members literally hold the balance of power.
There are likely to be 240 Republicans in the House next year so Trump will only be able to lose 22 members and still win a vote. If just half the HFC votes against him, Trump won't have the votes he needs.
Getting half the HFC to oppose at least some of the Trump plans may not be that hard. His big-spending budget proposals , for example, could easily give them a severe case of deficit agita .
There is far less likelihood of Democratic defections in the House than in the Senate on most issues over the next few years so the Trump White House won't be able to ignore the HFC while it makes deals with the minority party. Indeed, Trump will probably lose additional hardline Freedom Caucus votes the more he compromises with Democrats.
Given some of the big policy changes Trump is planning and some of the unusual procedures that may be used to enact them , there are very likely to be a variety of legal challenges that will reach the Supreme Court before the next presidential election. That will likely make the court the final arbiter on many parts of the Trump presidency.
Yes, whoever Trump nominates to fill Justice Antonin Scalia's seat will tip the balance in his favor on many issues. But history has shown that, once confirmed, Supreme Court justices don't always decide cases as expected (see Warren, Earl).
As a result, the high court's legal blessing of the Trump agenda should not be considered a sure thing .