President Donald Trump will meet with House and Senate leadership at the White House Tuesday afternoon to plot a path forward on health care and tax reform -- two of the administration's top legislative priorities that have been stalled in recent months amid a growing investigation into Trump associates' ties to Russia.
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Speaking to reporters Monday evening in a briefing on Mr. Trump's legislative agenda for Congress's summer session, White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short acknowledged that the continuing probes are distracting but said the administration expected to see health care and tax reform pass Congress by the end of the year.
"There's no doubt that keeping members focused on investigations detracts from our legislative agenda, detracts from what we're trying to do," Mr. Short said. But he said the administration had made progress working with lawmakers on health care and tax reform during the congressional recess.
Mr. Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and has called the investigation a "witch hunt."
Republican lawmakers in recent weeks have begun expressing skepticism that the GOP-controlled Senate will reach a deal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this year, as the House did earlier this year. Meanwhile, the party is starkly divided on several major issues surrounding overhauling the tax code.
After meeting with Republican leaders of the House and Senate on Tuesday, Mr. Trump will host a dinner with lawmakers in both chambers to brief them on his foreign trip last month -- the first overseas travel of his presidency -- and discuss "foreign policy challenges," Mr. Short said. No Democrats were invited to either event.
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Lawmakers in both parties have expressed frustration in recent weeks with the president's penchant for drama -- in particular his frequent controversial statements on Twitter. On Monday morning, for example, he stoked an unprompted debate over the travel ban he ordered earlier this year, complaining that the revised order -- which he signed -- was a "watered down" version.
Mr. Short, asked whether the tweets were a distraction for lawmakers, praised the president's efforts to rally Congress behind his legislative priorities. "The president is often very effective in driving our message in Congress, and I think that's why you're going to see him engage the way he does tomorrow," he said.
Pressed on whether the White House had heard criticism of Mr. Trump's tweets from Republican lawmakers, Mr. Short said Trump voters were "anxious to change the culture in D.C. They were asking for disruption to the way D.C. operates."
Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 05, 2017 21:15 ET (01:15 GMT)