“Repeal and Replace” was the trademark phrase of Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Republicans everywhere. However, with its namesake in the Oval Office, Obamacare remained firmly in place. The 2016 election created a glimmer of hope for conservatives, who believed that a new candidate would jump on the anti-Obamacare bandwagon. When Donald Trump rode down the now infamous escalator, he proclaimed, “We have a disaster called the big lie: Obamacare,” and after his electoral victory, he asserted that he would stand by his promise .

As of today, the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. Although the Trump administration has refused to admit complete failure in regards to their plan, what likely worries Trump the most are the implications of the debacle. What ultimately brought down the first version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) were irreconcilable differences between the prominent wings of the Republican party: centrist blue- and swing-state moderates, Ryan’s mainstream conservatives, and the Tea Party-inspired Freedom Caucus. Trump’s brand of populist Republicanism enjoys limited representation in Congress. Unless the President finds his way across the aisle, these divides will continue to cripple his legislative agenda.

With the exception of the AHCA, President Trump has attempted to enact policy primarily through executive action. Although the constitutional legality of this method is questionable, President Barack Obama used it extensively, making any legal challenge from the left unlikely. President Trump’s 23 executive orders since his inauguration have achieved significant changes, the most substantive of which concerns illegal immigration enforcement and industrial deregulation. This method is unsustainable, particularly when considering Trump’s hasty desire for reelection. He will eventually have to legislate, at which point he will be forced into tedious political negotiations with both houses of the United States Congress. Because of this congressional conundrum, President Trump’s political options are extremely limited. If he shoots for large-scale tax reform, centrists will be disturbed by immense tax cuts for top earners. A rumored one trillion dollar infrastructure bill would be toxic for libertarians. Whether President Trump likes it or not, he will likely have to make friends with either Rand Paul or Susan Collins.

President Trump currently has minimal control over the direction of his government, and he can thank the Founding Fathers for the success of their checks and balances. If he is indeed seeking a second term, Trump will need to have presidential accomplishments to show from his first term. This may be part of his rationale for military engagement in the Middle East, a situation he can control and that has boosted his favorability. This strategy has proven successful in helping Trump collect bipartisan support, and his best hope may be to ride his military wave to successful policy. However, if the AHCA has taught us anything, he would do well to look out for Congressional opposition.