President Trump’s ambitious agenda: 7 things to watch in 2018

President Trump’s ambitious agenda: 7 things to watch in 2018

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House officials said Trump wants to rein in the threat from North Korea 
and list four top domestic priorities on his 2018 agenda: Repealing and 
replacing President Obama’s 2010 health care law, welfare reform, 
immigration, and a new infrastructure plan.

“I would expect to see those four areas,
 as well as national security, which never goes away,” White House 
spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

Yet the Republican-controlled Congress 
has been struggling to pass some of Trump’s major priorities since his 
election – and their challenges will only increase in 2018. The GOP’s Senate bare majority will shrink when Alabama’s newly elected senator, Democrat Doug Jones, is sworn in.

In January, lawmakers will have to 
confront a thicket of unfinished business. In their rush to get home for
 the holidays, the GOP-led Congress passed a short-term spending bill 
that expires Jan. 19.

Trump and GOP leaders will have to 
negotiate a longer-term spending deal before then to avert a government 
shutdown, and they will likely need Democratic support for that to pass.
 Other sticky issues on the January agenda include legislation aimed at 
stabilizing the Obamacare individual insurance markets and reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a contentious anti-terrorism law that gives law enforcement sweeping spy powers.

What’s more, lawmakers will be consumed with their own 2018 mid-term elections – and the increasingly contentious Russia
 investigations. “As everybody in Washington knows, a midterm election 
year is a year when most legislation comes to a standstill,” said David 
Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron.

“Members of Congress are going to be 
obsessed with winning re-election,” Cohen said, and will be more eager 
to campaign at home than be in Washington casting tough votes.

Here are seven key issues that Trump and Congress will confront:

North Korea

Trump will lobby China
 – and other countries – to twist the economic screws on North Korea, in
 the hopes of forcing that rogue nation to give up their nuclear weapons

Trump traveled to Asia to press that 
issue in November and declared North Korea a state sponsor of terror. 
Yet North Korea leader Kim Jong Un has more or less thumbed his nose at 
the effort, recently setting off another ballistic missile test, and 
continued threatening the U.S. and its allies.

As 2018 approaches, Trump and his 
advisers hope to settle the dispute diplomatically, but they have not 
ruled out the possibility of a military strike.


In his 2018 budget proposal, Trump 
sought $200 billion over 10 years to spend on infrastructure, leveraging
 private-sector spending to focus federal dollars on “transformative” 
projects seen as priorities at both the federal and regional level.

That went nowhere in 2017, as Trump and 
the GOP-led Congress focused instead on trying to repeal Obamacare and 
enacting tax cuts. But the president plans to rev up that push early 
next year, with the hope that Democrats will cooperate.

Infrastructure spending is generally a 
bipartisan issue, and few dispute the need to improve the nation’s 
highway and bridges. But Trump and Democrats have already outlined 
competing plans, and conservatives are likely to oppose any legislation 
that calls for massive new spending.

So, the fate of that will likely depend 
on Trump’s willingness to cut a deal with Democrats—and vice 
versa—heading into a heated election year.

Health care

Trump insists he has not given up on his
 goal of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, President 
Obama’s health reform law, even though Republicans in Congress could not
 muster enough votes to deliver on that long-promised goal this year.

After Congress passed a massive tax bill
 in December that repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate, Trump 
declared the law was “essentially” repealed and lawmakers would work 
together to find a replacement. (However, the law is barely touched, 
though the requirement that nearly everyone have insurance or pay a 
penalty at tax time was repealed effective in 2019.)

Overhauling Obamacare will only get more
 complicated in 2018, as Republicans will have just 51 seats in the 
Senate. And the GOP’s previous efforts to nix Obamacare sparked intense 
anger among voters who wanted to keep the coverage – something lawmakers
 may not want to reignite when many of them will be on the ballot.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 
R-Ky., signaled little interest in taking another stab at the issue. 
“Well, we obviously were unable to completely repeal and replace with a 
52-48 Senate,” McConnell told NPR in a Dec. 21 interview. “We’ll have to
 take a look at what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate. But I think 
we’ll probably move on to other issues.”

Other Republicans pushed back, saying the GOP should not give up on that long-touted campaign promise.


Congress has a March deadline to decide 
the fate of the so-called DREAMers, the approximately 700,000 immigrants
 brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children. Trump nixed an 
Obama-era program that shielded the DREAMers from deportation,
 but he also said Congress should figure out a legislative fix, so the 
young people aren’t sent back to countries they did not grow up in.

 have called the Obama protections—known as DACA, or Deferred Action for
 Childhood Arrivals— a form of “amnesty” and suggested those young 
immigrants have taken jobs from Americans. But there’s bipartisan 
support in Congress and in the public to grant the DREAMers legal status
 and even a path to citizenship.

Whether Trump—who campaigned on a 
hardline anti-immigrant platform—will sign such a bill is unclear. He 
has sent mixed signals on the issue, and he’s also called for new 
restrictions on refugees and others seeking entry into the United States.

After the Dec. 12 arrest of a man who 
tried to set off a bomb in a New York commuter tunnel, Trump called for 
the end of “chain migration” and the diversity visa lottery programs.

Welfare reform

In announcing a new major legislative 
priority following the tax cut bill, Trump said welfare reform is 
“desperately needed in our country.”

A Trump budget proposal last year called
 for adding work requirements to some government programs and tightening
 eligibility requirements for low-income tax credits. “We want to get 
our people off of welfare and back to work,” Trump said. “So important. 
It’s out of control. It’s out of control.”

Democrats say welfare reforms instituted
 two decades ago are working and that Trump wants to punch major holes 
in the social safety net.

Trump announced in October he would no 
longer certify that Iran is in compliance with an Obama-era deal, in 
which Tehran pledged to give up the means to make nuclear weapons while 
the U.S. and allies ease economic sanctions. Instead, Trump called on 
Congress to improve the agreement, and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal
 is likely to come to a head in 2018.

Supporters of the agreement fear Iran 
will walk away from the agreement and pursue nuclear weapons anyway, 
triggering a dangerous arms race in the Middle East.

The debt limit

The U.S. Treasury will run out of money 
to pay its bills sometime in the spring — unless Congress and the 
president agree on legislation to raise the nation’s debt limit. The 
Treasury Department lost its authority to borrow any new money to pay 
the government’s obligations on Dec. 9.

Officials are currently taking 
“extraordinary measures” to keep from defaulting on the government’s 
current obligations, including Medicare
 benefits and the interest on the national debt. But the agency will run
 out of those accounting gimmicks in late March or early April, 
according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.


That could lead to a round of partisan 
fiscal brinksmanship—with threats of defaulting on the government’s 
debts. Conservatives have generally opposed increasing the nation’s 
borrowing authority, so Trump will likely have to negotiate with 
Democrats to come to an agreement.


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