President Donald Trump on Tuesday night asked a joint session of Congress to set aside “trivial fights” and “work past differences of party” in order to act swiftly on his top policy priorities.
Below are some of the policy goals Mr. Trump laid out in his speech and their prospects in Congress.
Mr. Trump: “We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.”
Legislative reality: To pay for his multibillion dollar border wall, Mr. Trump will need to overcome two obstacles in Congress.
First, some fiscal conservatives have suggested that Mr. Trump needs to cut spending elsewhere, or find other revenue in order to cover the cost, which the Department of Homeland Security has said could top $20 billion to build and maintain.
Second, Democrats are dead set against the idea and are expected to mount a fight.
“The speaker has said that we’re going to do this in a fiscally conservative manner,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, the leader of a group of influential House conservatives known as the Freedom Caucus. Many of his colleagues support the proposed wall but want to see it paid for, Mr. Meadows has said. It isn’t clear how far that group will push if Republican leaders decide to advance legislation without a way to cover the cost.
Spending bills need to meet a 60-vote threshold to pass the Senate, more than the 52 held by Republicans. Few Democrats are likely to back the wall, and the party in any event would want to withhold its support to bargain for immigration measures it supports but that many Republicans don’t.
One option for Republican leaders: Fund the border wall as part of a spending bill needed to keep the government running—a fight that could prompt a partial federal shutdown if the bill didn’t attract enough support.
Mr. Trump: “I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States—financed through both public and private capital—creating millions of new jobs.”
Legislative reality: Like the border wall, any major spending on infrastructure will need congressional approval. An infrastructure package, even partly financed by private dollars, would likely come with a big price tag that could cause discomfort among fiscal conservatives and deficit hawks.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) has said he would need to see details of the plan and its funding mechanism before supporting it. “We’ve got a $20 trillion debt,” he said. “Look, we’ve got to pay for things.”
Outside of Congress, some conservatives have started to rally opposition to the plan. Mark Levin, a radio host, said he opposes infrastructure spending aimed at “government-created jobs.”
“If you’re really an independent, thoughtful conservative, you’re scratching your head about that. You’re saying, ‘No, I reject that,’ ” he said this week.
Republicans were largely opposed to former President Barack Obama’s nearly $800 billion stimulus package that passed just weeks into his administration in 2009.
Mr. Trump: “I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better health care.”
Legislative reality: Even Mr. Trump, who has promised “insurance for everybody,” acknowledged this week the difficulty of unwinding Mr. Obama’s signature health-care law without disrupting insurance markets and ensuring that covered people aren’t dumped off their health plans. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” he said at the White House this week.
Conservative Republicans are opposed to a plan from the House GOP leadership to give tax credits to help Americans buy insurance after a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, calling it a new federal entitlement. Centrist Republicans don’t want to repeal the law without a robust replacement. GOP governors are divided over various plans for reshaping the federal-state Medicaid program, which the ACA expanded.
Democrats are unlikely to cooperate at all, as most see the law as a signature achievement for their party.
Former House Speaker John Boehner said this week that repealing the law and then replacing it with a new health system is “not what’s going to happen.” He predicted: “They’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it.”
Mr. Trump: “My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.”
Legislative reality: Overhauling tax law is immensely complicated, because it affects the finances of so many businesses and individuals. The last major rewrite of the nation’s tax code was in 1986. Adding another complexity: Republicans want to put the difficult task of replacing the Affordable Care Act behind them before tackling taxes.
Though there is broad consensus, even across party lines, on the need to simplify the code, there are big divisions over the details. Republicans are split over a proposal called border adjustment, which would tax imports and exempt exports. Supporters favor it in part because it would raise money that could be used to lower rates overall. But many industries, such as retailers, would pay higher taxes under a border adjustment.
Mr. Trump’s stance on the proposal is unclear, though his comments Tuesday night were supportive of its premise. However, many Senate Republicans are opposed to it.
Democrats are unlikely to support either the framework put forward by House Republicans or the plan Mr. Trump proposed during the campaign, which would cut taxes on upper earners.
Source|The Wall Street Journal