President Trump's decision Tuesday to fire FBI Director James Comey didn't just throw the White House into chaos and amplify uncomfortable questions about the administration's ties to the Russian government — it also threatened to derail the entire Republican agenda.
Congress has only so much time, energy, and attention to spare, and lawmakers are now assured of weeks of media coverage about a toxic issue and must prepare for the potentially contentious confirmation of a new FBI director.
Hill Republicans were supposed to be getting on track. After the House passed a health care bill last week, senators were getting to work on their own plan, with a tax overhaul still to come later this year. Senate Republicans already said health care, the first part of their policy two-step, could take months to complete. They must resolve big differences between their moderate and conservative wings.
More from Vox:
Experts on authoritarianism are absolutely terrified by the Comey firing
The founder of Mother's Day didn't want you to celebrate it like you probably will
A Nixon biographer explains how Trump compares
Then Trump stepped in and sacked Comey. It was a wrench nobody expected.
Republicans are putting a good face on it, promising that they can walk and chew gum at the same time. They are hoping Trump picks an uncontroversial nominee to succeed Comey, allowing the storm to subside and the work on health care to stay on schedule. A messy confirmation could lead to escalation by Democrats that slows the Senate to a crawl,
They are, in other words, banking on a measured approach from the president to prevent Comey and the Trump-Russia scandal from unraveling policy goals that they have been pursuing for years.