Congress, Administration Eye First 100 Days

November 17, 2016


donald-j-trump-1342298Amid some widely-reported turmoil, President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team have begun the process of short-listing possible cabinet members and identifying key policy imperatives for his first 100 days in office. Leadership elections have been ongoing at the other end of Pennsylvania Ave. as well.

House Republicans unanimously agreed to retain Rep. Paul Ryan as Speaker, California’s Kevin McCarthy as majority leader and Steve Scalise of Louisiana as House whip. House Democrats, however voted to delay the nomination of their party’s top slot for another two weeks. Senate Republicans unanimously re-elected Mitch McConnell to be majority leader in the 115th Congress. Senate Democrats will replace their retiring leader Harry Reid with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York who has included Democratic Senators on both ends of the spectrum in his leadership team, including liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and the more moderate Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

A number of various Cabinet positions have been suggested, yet nothing has been confirmed aside from two positions: Reince Priebus as his chief of staff and Steve Bannon as his chief strategist. Among the cabinet positions of most impact to small businesses are Treasury, where Steven Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs is a front-runner; Commerce where Wilbur Ross, billionaire investor and Trump economic advisor is a top contender; the Department of Labor with current EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic a likely candidate; and Health and Human Services secretary still up in the air, but two possible candidates being considered are Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the House Budget Committee and Bobby Jindal, former governor of Louisiana.

President-elect Trump and his transition team have identified several key areas of focus when they take control of the White House in January: regulations, repealing the Affordable Care Act, immigration, infrastructure and foreign trade. It is also expected he will move quickly on naming a replacement for the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another, more broad focus, is his promise to “drain the swamp,” or clean up Washington, D.C. Mr. Trump, having never held office before, has been critical of the political establishment and has called for term limits, however Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dealt a swift blow to that priority, responding that such legislation is not a priority in his eyes.

With respect to regulations, Mr. Trump has been outspoken in a commitment to reform the entire regulatory code and repeal many of President Obama’s executive orders, ranging from immigration issues to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and climate change to restrictions on gun sales. He has pledged to put a moratorium on new agency regulations for a certain amount of time. Mr. Trump also has called for Congressional review over any “economically significant” regulation, although exactly what that threshold would look like is unclear.

Also likely on the chopping block is the Paris climate change agreement and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon emissions, which currently is on hold pending judicial review.

With regards to the ACA, while Trump couldn’t single-handedly repeal the provision, which could prove difficult to get through Congress absent a Senate Republican 60-vote majority, he could both halt implementation and refuse to enforce certain aspects of ACA. Specifically, he could limit Medicaid expansion, give states greater latitude to set up alternatives to the ACA, and halt enrollment operations in the ACA. Furthermore, Republicans in the House and Senate could offer targeted bills to chip away at the ACA.

There is one strategy for full repeal of the ACA, however: a so-called “double reconciliation,” which is supported by both the Senate and House Budget Committee Chairs. This plan would enable Republicans to pass two reconciliation bills in 2017, one to repeal ACA and the other to deal with broad tax reform, however Democrats and many health industry experts have warned such repeal would create chaos in the insurance market. As far as a replacement for the ACA, the Trump plan is somewhat scant on details, yet mentions of “across lines” could be interpreted as Association Health Plans – an old plan opposed by NSBA that would enable health insurers to sell across state lines, but that could result in massive cherry-picking of the healthiest individuals and creating massive disparities in care and cost.

When it comes to immigration, Trump is expected to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was approved under an Obama executive order and allows the children of undocumented immigrants who arrived after 2007 to stay in the country. Advisors to Trump have also said he may move quickly on his promise to build a wall between the U.S.-Mexico border, and are urging him to support a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.

Despite criticism from some conservatives, Trump has also promised massive spending on infrastructure, which could be an early litmus test on how much support he will garner from conservatives on his priorities that are not viewed positively from the more conservative wing of the GOP. This is one area where Trump could reach out to Democratic leaders in the Senate and House to pass bipartisan legislation.

Finally, Mr. Trump is expected to tackle early his distaste of what he has called “job-killing” trade agreements. He is expected to remove the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and could even work to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) absent major changes being made.

NSBA looks forward to working with the new administration, and new and returning leaders in the House and Senate. We urge policymakers to reach across the aisle to work on the important issues facing our nation: reducing the deficit and our long-term debt; reforming our overly complex tax code; reining-in the costs of health care; strengthening our international trade agreements—not necessarily abandoning them; and streamlining burdensome regulations. The ultimate goal of policymakers in the coming months must be to ensure political stability and promote economic growth.


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