By Tessa Berenson
November 15, 2017

When President Trump returned from a week and a half in Asia, his longest foreign policy trip to date, he arrived back to a series of domestic issues that festered while he was gone.

As Trump spent time overseas outlining his “Indo-Pacific Dream” vision, bonding with world leaders, and needling North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, American political life at home was hit with new sexual misconduct allegations, Congressional gridlock and another mass shooting.

Here are the three major issues awaiting Trump’s return to the Oval Office.

Roy Moore’s sexual misconduct scandal

On November 9, the Washington Post published accusations by four women that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore had initiated sexual contact with them while he was in his 30s and they were teenagers. The news rocked the political world: Moore called the attacks “fake news” and many Alabama Republicans stood by him, but other national GOP leaders called on him to drop out of the race. The White House released an official statement saying Moore will “do the right thing and step aside” if the allegations are true.

But Trump, who infamously dealt with his own sexual misconduct allegations during his run for president, was uncharacteristically quiet on the matter. “Honestly, I’d have to look at it and I have to see,” he told reporters on a flight to Vietnam. “I’ll have further comment as we go down the road. I have to get back into the country to see what’s happening.”

If Trump does provide “further comment” when he returns, it could shake up a scandal that shows no signs of receding from view. On Monday, calls were growing from Republican senators for their prospective colleague to leave the race (dropping the “if true” language from many of the original statements). The same day, a fifth accuser came forward and said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a minor.

It’s a political pickle for Trump. Defending Moore could put him on the wrong side of the swelling ranks of GOP leaders denouncing him; condemning him might anger a base Trump is loathe to turn his back on. And Trump won’t want to risk losing a Republican seat in the Senate, which could jeopardize his policy objectives already struggling to pass under a slim majority.

Tax reform

In October, GOP leaders said they were aiming to have the package passed by Thanksgiving. Before Trump left on his trip, he promised that signing tax reform into law by the end of the year would be his “Christmas gift” to the nation. But with the end of the year rapidly approaching, it’s looking less and less likely that Congress will be able to pass the major legislation in time. A House committee passed its version of tax reform but could still have its efforts gummed up by Democratic maneuvers that could force Republicans to accept or reject politically charged changes; the Senate will begin marking up its bill in committee this week, a process that could end up being messy and drawn out.

Heading into his last day on the trip, Trump signaled he was already looking ahead to tackling taxes when he gets back: “I am proud of the Rep. House & Senate for working so hard on cutting taxes {& reform.},” he tweeted Monday. “We’re getting close! Now, how about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further? Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?”

But the president’s tweet belies the political reality that it’s extremely unlikely Congress will be able to couple repealing the Obamacare individual mandate with tax cuts. Any significant changes to Obamacare have proved impossible, even with a Republican-controlled Congress.

Taxes are far thornier, and combining the two would be like tossing a flaming oil tanker aboard a melting-down nuclear plant. Any votes Republicans may get from conservatives tempted by scrapping Obamacare could be offset by a centrist flight from those who want health care considered in a measured way. With congressional Republicans so far unable to mark any major achievements besides confirming Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump will likely be ramping up the pressure on Senate leadership even more when he’s back in the States.

Texas church shooting

Just one day after Trump arrived in Asia, a gunman killed 26 people at a church in Texas. The president told reporters in Tokyo on Nov. 6, the day after the shooting, that the massacre was the result of a “mental health problem” rather than an issue with gun laws. The following day, he argued that more restrictive gun laws would have led to even more casualties. Trump’s response, compared with his statements after the recent terrorist truck attack in NYC, demonstrates a willingness to politicize acts of terrorism but not domestic mass shootings.

And it’s a near certainty that Congress won’t bring up any comprehensive gun control legislation, even after Texas and the Las Vegas shooting, the worst in U.S. history, not to mention another recent shooting in California which left four dead. Still, with 2017 becoming the deadliest year for mass shootings in modern American history, the question of how to make the country safer— and the role gun laws play in that debate— isn’t going away any time soon.

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