The Intersection: Nov 2016

Welcome to The Intersection, a series designed to help you anticipate and prepare for public policy challenges and opportunities.

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The First 100 Days – What can we Expect?

Throughout this year’s campaign, presidential candidate Donald J. Trump was accused of being vague and contradictory on his policy prescriptions for what ails America. That said, Trump was very clear on some of his intentions—including repealing and replacing Obamacare and having Mexico reimburse the U.S. for construction of a wall along the southern border. In order to glean what President-elect Trump will likely focus on in the first 100 days of his administration, a good start is to review “Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter,” released in October. The Contract focuses on three areas—dismantling Washington’s “rigged system,” protecting American workers and restoring the constitutional rule of law. Specifically, Trump will aim to do the following:

Clean up Corruption and Special Interest Collusion

Trump has said he will propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress. This likely has little chance of progressing, particularly since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “I would say we have term limits now. They’re called elections. And it will not be on the agenda in the Senate.” In addition to a raft of proposals to limit the size of the federal government, including a hiring freeze on all federal employees with the exception of the military, public safety and public health, Trump has indicated he will issue:

  • A 5-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service;
  • A lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government; and
  • A complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.

Protecting American Workers

On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly complained that America doesn’t win at anything, especially negotiating trade deals. To that end, Trump has stated that he will renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is likely that the Republican-controlled Congress will support some elements of Trump’s trade proposals. Senator McConnell said the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal will not come up in the lame-duck session, and added that fast-track trade promotion authority (TPA) signed in 2015 “is still in place.” Trump’s other proposals aimed at protecting the American worker include:

  • Directing the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator, which would allow the President to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where it is believed that China is taking unfair advantage of U.S. manufacturers. However, China was found to meet only one criterion of a currency manipulator in the Treasury Department’s latest semi-annual report, released last month.
  • Moving forward on major infrastructure projects like the Keystone Pipeline.
  • Introducing the Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification Act under which a middle-class family with two children would get a 35-percent tax cut. The bill would also reduce the number of tax brackets from 7 to 3 and the business tax rate from 35 to 15 percent. Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike seem primed for tax reform, so some elements of Trump’s plan could get implemented.

Restoring Constitutional Rule of Law

Trump intends to undo many of President Obama’s 235 executive orders which dealt with a variety of issues from climate change to national security. Trump has indicated that he will take action on executive orders related to:

  • Climate change – the Paris Climate Agreement, EPA regulations, Clean Power Plan
  • Iran nuclear deal – he vows to renegotiate the terms and increase enforcement
  • Health Care while repeal of ACA requires congressional action, Trump, through his Health and Human Services Secretary can slow Medicaid expansion and through guidance letters and memoranda give states greater latitude to set up alternatives to ACA
  • Immigration – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA)
  • Gun control – undoing Obama’s revised definition of who is “engaged in the business” of selling guns to cover people who do so at gun shows

Through a Trump administration, conservatives have an opportunity to enact a veritable policy wish list in the Republican-held Congress and see it upheld by a Supreme Court that will likely consist of a majority of Republican-nominated justices. Again, one could look to McConnell for counsel on how to proceed. He cautioned that it would be a “mistake” for the Republican majority to “misread your mandate.” He advised not to overreach and to look for areas that could draw bipartisan support as “[Republicans have] been given a temporary lease on power, if you will. And I think we need to use it responsibly. I think what the American people are looking for is results. And to get results in the Senate, as all of you know, it requires some Democratic participation and cooperation.”