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Legislative Spotlight: Rough Road Ahead for Retailers


The failure of President Trump and the Republicans in Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was shocking enough for business owners but it is the road ahead that should give operators some real heartburn.

The failure of the House bill – the American Health Care Act – had very little to do with healthcare policy. In fact, most people, including many in the White House, could tell you very little about the details of the bill. What it revealed most, once again, are the deep fissures within the Republican Party itself. The conservative Freedom Caucus, the moderate Tuesday Group, the Leadership team – House Republicans have more factions than a middle school. Navigating those significant differences can be a daunting task for any White House, especially one with so little political experience. Presidents with approval ratings in the 50%-60% range can bridge those divides. Presidents with approval ratings in the 30s get swallowed up by them. This is what happened here.

The business community has an ambitious agenda ahead of it this year, headlined by corporate tax reform, trade and immigration. Healthcare was supposed to be the easy one – name one Republican who didn’t campaign on a promise to repeal Obamacare! The other issues are stickier and the rifts exposed by the healthcare debacle may be widened by hard choices that need to be made during negotiations on those issues. For retailers, many of whom had high hopes for significant legislative action this year, the rest of the year could be frustrating.

Republicans will have a unifying moment with the likely confirmation in the next month of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, but that energy will dissipate quickly. Business leaders will have to weigh in loudly with Congressional leaders to make sure other business priorities don’t become casualties of the inter-party civil war that seems to be alive and well.

Joe Kefauver is managing partner of Align Public Strategies, a full-service public affairs and creative firm that helps corporate brands, governments and nonprofits navigate the outside world and inform their internal decision-making. Align specializes in service sector industries.

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