With the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States, there is much speculation about what our nation, and the world, can expect in terms of public policy orientation from a Trump-led administration. As a candidate, Mr. Trump ran as a Washington-outsider bent on upsetting the establishment status quo and whose campaign promises centered around undoing many pieces of President Obama’s agenda.
While cutting through the rhetoric of a presidential campaign can often be difficult, the clearest articulation of Mr. Trump’s near-term goals are found in a speech he delivered in late October in Pennsylvania in which he outlined his plan for his first 100 days in office.
The speech, and the subsequent “Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter” document, outlined policies in three broad areas:
1 – Federal Government Reforms
In addition to proposing a Constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on Congress, Mr. Trump proposed a hiring freeze on all new federal government employees (excluding military, public safety, and public health), restrictions on all new proposed federal regulations, and limitations and bans on lobbying activities by former elected and appointed officials.
2 – Trade & International Economy and Policy
Trump noted his intention to renegotiate and/or withdraw from existing (NAFTA) or proposed (TPP) international trade agreements, label China as a currency manipulator, lift restrictions on energy production and projects, and reverse U.S. financial support for UN climate change programs.
3 – Legal Reforms
Trump’s speech noted his intention to cancel executive actions, memorandums, and orders previously issued under President Obama, to nominate a Supreme Court justice to replace former Justice Antonin Scalia, and to address undocumented immigrants and immigration from “terror-prone regions.”
In addition to these three areas, candidate-Trump outlined a number of legislative measures to guide his administration’s work with Congress, which ranged from tax reforms, corporate punishments for offshoring, repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act, constructing a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, encouraging infrastructure investment, and promoting school choice.
Some of Mr. Trump’s proposals are achievable.
For example, Mr. Trump could likely move to cancel certain executive orders by President Obama, which is in fact a common tactic for incoming presidents. On a technical and process level, President-elect Trump would also have the authority to renegotiate and withdraw from international trade agreements, although such actions could prove to be a more risky proposition than imagined during the campaign.
On the other hand, other proposals of his are likely to be less achievable in part due to political and legal obstacles, including the need for Congressional approval.
For example, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that repealing Obamacare is a high item on the Republicans’ agenda, doing so would require an act of Congress, as would other Trump goals such as imposing tariffs on businesses that move overseas, ending regulations over pollution and coal, getting rid of gun-free school zones, and renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal.
Senator McConnell has also said that term limits for Congress will not be on the Senate’s agenda and that Mr. Trump’s infrastructure plans are not among Congress’ top priorities. In addition, though the Obama administration itself also moved early on to impose limitations on lobbying activities and policy advocacy, those efforts were proven largely unsuccessful.
While the first 100 days are often seen as a measure of the successes of a president during the time that their influence is at its peak, experience has often shown that it can often be much harder to fulfill visionary campaign vows than expected. As one example, newly-elected President Obama himself issued a famous executive order closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison only to encounter resistance from both parties in Congress, which voted to block its closure.
Nevertheless, a new Trump administration portends a number of new as well as previously uncharted approaches to both U.S. domestic and foreign policy. As the new administration, leadership, and policies of President-elect Trump continues to take shape, we will be tracking developments, reaching out to our contacts, and look forward to sharing additional insights with you.
Compliments of Blue Star Strategies – a member of the EACCNY