While the White House grapples with questions over Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, the Trump legislative agenda is still developing on Capitol Hill, with health care at the center of those efforts in Congress, as the President wraps up his fourth month in office at the end of this week.
Here’s where things stand in the halls of the U.S. Capitol:
1. Senate Republicans trying to solve the health care puzzle. It’s only been ten days since the House approved a GOP health care measure, but there is no real indication yet as to how Republicans in the Senate will change the health care bill, and when it might be voted on. As for the timing, don’t expect any real action in the Senate this month, as lawmakers still wait for the Congressional Budget Office to score the House-passed GOP measure.
2. Health care is key to the rest of the GOP agenda. The longer that health care takes to finish, the longer that Republicans must wait to get moving on tax reform and other items. This is sort of in the weeds when it comes to the rules of “budget reconciliation” in the Congress, but until the GOP finishes with health care, you can’t start work on a tax bill that also follows the same rules which don’t allow for a Senate filibuster. Bottom line – work on tax cuts, infrastructure, and next year’s budget has to wait until health care is done.
3. Waiting to see the details of the Trump budget. We will get more details later this month from the President on what he wants to do on the budget, as he starts to fill in all sorts of fine print on spending, cuts and even taxes. As I wrote this weekend, don’t expect to see a balanced budget anytime soon, as it’s expected that the Trump plan would not balance the budget for 10 years. That’s been a standard GOP plan. Making things even more difficult on a balanced budget would be large tax cuts as well.
4. Will the Trump budget include plans for infrastructure spending? The President has talked for a long time about his $1 trillion infrastructure plan to build new roads, bridges and more around the nation, but has yet to come forward with actual details of a plan. The biggest stumbling block is how you fund the government’s share of what backers say would be a public-private partnership, with maybe $200 billion in federal funding. Big headlines are easy to support – but the details of where the money comes from can make for something different. Adding to the gas tax seems unlikely.
5. Clock runs out on Obama rule reversals. Employing a seldom used federal law, Republicans were able to repeal fourteen different late regulations from the Obama Administration, as the clock ran out last week on further repeal efforts by the GOP. Fourteen rules were repealed, though Democrats did get one victory when three GOP Senators broke ranks to defeat a plan last week regarding rules on methane released from oil and gas wells. But overall, these rule repeals represent a big step forward for the GOP on one of their election year promises, to get rid of regulations from the last administration. 14-1 isn’t a bad score.
As you can see with the rule repeals, some items have been acted on by the GOP Congress – but in terms of the big stuff, you can’t get to tax reform, infrastructure and more, until Republicans finish with health care.
That remains the key to the GOP legislative agenda right now in the Congress.