Speed Reads

New Year 2018

An upbeat Trump returns to Washington as White House aides reportedly prepare for a 'grim' 2018

President Trump returned to Washington on Monday in an upbeat mood, Politico says, well-rested after 10 days at his members-only club in Florida, with a big legislative win under his belt — tax reform — as well as historically low approval ratings and historically high White House turnover.

But it's the coming "brain drain" among senior White House officials that "has generated a sense of foreboding among White House aides," and that's just part of their "grim reality of 2018," Politico reports, citing interviews with "more than a dozen current and former officials and outside advisers." The White House is also dealing with the "shadow of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation" and slim hopes for any more big legislation, with Republicans facing stiff headwinds before the 2018 midterms and a slimmer 51-49 margin in the Senate. White House officials blame the difficulty in recruiting top new talent on the Mueller investigation.

Trump has been meeting with current and former political advisers to try to decide on his next move, pushing either for welfare reform or an infrastructure package that could win Democratic support. Several White House advisers are pushing for infrastructure, arguing it could keep the House in GOP hands after the midterms, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been talking up big changes to welfare programs, Medicare, and Medicaid. Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Trump are scheduled to meet at Camp David this week to discuss their 2018 agenda; a senior administration official tells Politico that whatever they decide, he still expects "a lot of infighting."

The Senate returns to session on Wednesday and the House next Monday, and regardless of what Trump decides, lawmakers have a very full plate for the next few weeks. You can read more about January's legislative flood at The Washington Post and the White House's concerns at Politico.