Politics

Immigration, Obamacare Repeal Seen Headlining Trump’s First 100 Days

Former White House aide: Base will ‘demand’ quick action on border wall

President-elect Donald Trump, with his wife Melania and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after a Nov. 10 meeting in the Capitol. Trump’s first 100 days likely will be the most unconventional in the modern era, experts say. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Speaker John A. Boehner is relieved to be retired. Rep. John L. Mica, the recently ousted Florida Republican, is excitedly going on a cruise. And during a recent reception at the White House, a senior Obama administration official responded with a nervous shrug when asked about winter in Washington under a fledgling Trump administration.

At no other point in the modern American political era has an incoming president and administration been met with such angst and shrouded in as much mystery. But one thing appears certain as Donald John Trump prepares to take the oath of Office in 39 days: His first 100 days in the White House will likely be the most unconventional anyone has ever seen.

After all, Trump was the first presidential Twitter candidate. That has continued since he earned the title president-elect by defeating Democratic foe Hillary Clinton. Trump recently signaled he will continue his bold pronouncements on the social media platform, explaining that he can dispense his message faster and wider that way, and “much more honestly than dealing with dishonest reporters.”

Journalists aren’t the only ones with questions about the incoming administration. All of Washington — from lawmakers to lobbyists to policy wonks — is wondering just what to expect during Trump’s first few months in office. Based on Trump using tweets to take on corporate CEOs, and anyone else who crosses him, all indications are this will not be your average first 100 days.

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“When [Bill] Clinton came into office, he didn’t know how Washington worked,” said Gordon Adams, who ran defense budgeting for the 42nd president. “But with Trump, he doesn’t even appear to have thought about it. It can make governing, and working with the Hill, very difficult — even when your party controls one or both chambers.”

“Sometimes, our worst enemies were in Congress. The people on the Hill take the power of that institution very seriously,” Adams said. “If you don’t appreciate that — and I don’t think Trump does — it can make things very difficult when you ride into Dodge with a bold agenda.”

Though they are as ambitious as his campaign trail promises, the early plans Trump and his aides have described are as bold and conservative as they are vague. Trump’s team rarely talks in policy specifics.

“Much of the Trump campaign was a policy-free zone, save for mentions of his signature concerns with immigration and trade,” said Leonard Williams, dean of the College of Education and Social Sciences at Indiana’s Manchester University.

Switching focus

“On his signature issues, we are likely to see a more militaristic and unilateral approach,” Williams said. “The ‘America First’ line that Trump used during the campaign will likely become the general orientation of both immigration and trade policy.”

Trump and his top lieutenants are vowing to hit the ground running on Inauguration Day, with the 45th president’s expected first act — likely not long after taking the oath — being signing a slew of orders to undo many executive actions and orders enacted by his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

Adams expects “a blizzard” of executive-order reversals because Republicans have long argued that “Obama governed by executive order.”

Senior Trump transition officials envision a busy first 100 days. His vice president-elect, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, last week told a conservative audience in Washington to “roll your sleeves up” because “the vacation’s over.”

Trump and Pence, a former House GOP leadership team member, want to pounce early — and often — by quickly repealing Obama’s 2010 health care law, overhauling Medicaid, and rescinding a slew of Obama-era regulations. The new administration wants to use block grants to give states more sway over Medicaid, a rare policy detail.

Also likely to be rescinded: Obama’s climate pact with a list of nations, an agreement he secured by enlisting China’s help.

What’s more, Pence vowed to terminate Pentagon spending caps and boost defense spending with a special “supplemental” spending measure during the first 100 days. Democrats, however, would be able to block such a bill in the Senate unless Trump and the GOP give them more domestic spending, setting up “his first big budget battle,” Adams said.

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Targeting the health law

Longtime Washington hands and others expect the Trump administration to immediately move to repeal the health care law.

“The Republicans have been promising their base for years they’re going to repeal Obamacare,” said William Galston, a former White House aide, now with the Brookings Institution. “Their excuse was big, bad Obama was wielding his veto pen. But now they have unified government, so they’re out of excuses. They have to do it. And they have to do it fast.”

Experts also expect tax cuts and immigration to factor heavily into the first 100 days, with Williams predicting that what Trump, Pence and Republicans come up with will have “all [the] benefits flowing to corporations and the wealthy.”

Immigration, given Trump’s campaign-trail promise to build a massive wall made of concrete and reinforced steel on the U.S.-Mexico border, also must figure prominently during his early months. That’s because his base will demand it.

“We’ll see how long and high and beautiful his wall is,” Galston said. “At some point, he has to stand in front of something and say, ‘Look what I built with your help.’”

Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com. Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT

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