By Tory Newmyer
March 6, 2017

While President Trump’s troubled legislative agenda soaks up the attention, his push to roll back Obama-era regulations on a whole range of industries is quietly humming along. Working with Congressional Republicans, his administration has already delayed, suspended or reversed 90 regulations on everything from consumer privacy protections for Verizon and AT&T customers to a requirement that big banks collect fees to cover high-risk trading losses, per a New York Times tally. The deregulatory campaign represents the new regime’s most potent assault on what Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, calls “the administrative state.” That’s because it’s one area where the White House and Congressional Republicans find near-universal agreement. Democrats on the Hill have little recourse, so Democratic state attorneys general are threatening to sue to stop some of the regulatory paring.

But on centerstage this week, the Obamacare repeal effort will be jostling with fallout from the president’s assertion that during the campaign, then-President Obama tapped his phones in Trump Tower (Obamatap?). The Trump team had aimed to steer conversations on the Sunday shows toward their unveiling of a repeal-and-replace plan this week. Trump’s Saturday morning tweets — alleging, without evidence, that his predecessor bugged him — shredded those scripts and sent White House communicators scrambling to shift the onus onto Congressional Republicans by demanding they investigate the claim. The developments set up a high-stakes test of the Trump team’s capacity for keep its formal agenda on track. The healthcare reform drive is facing new challenges on the right, as conservative groups, including Heritage Action and the Koch-backed Freedom Partners, raise objections to central pieces of the emerging House Republican plan. And tax reform, as we’ve noted here, is stuck on the tracks behind the Obamacare. Much of the internal GOP debate over the tax code rewrite has focused on whether or not it should include a border adjustment tax — a point on which the administration itself hasn’t reached consensus. But as one top Republican Senate aide notes, there are even bigger questions that still need answers: Will reform include the personal side of the code? Will the entire package be revenue neutral, or will it amount to a net tax cut? What can the middle class expect? “The White House has to make some decisions here,” the aide says. “That would be very helpful to us.”

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Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

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