Hidden from the gaze of the GOP-chaos-loving media is the fact that presumptive nominee Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress happen to actually agree on a great many issues.
There is more underlying agreement on the nuts and bolts of Republican policy-making than the coverage would imply.
While the heartburn of accepting Trump’s populist positions on trade and immigration may require several Tums for GOP congressional leaders to stomach, they also know a great many of their priorities would languish under a President Hillary Clinton, just as they have under the Obama administration.
There is more underlying agreement on the nuts and bolts of Republican policy-making, and on the rejection of the Obama legacy, than the coverage of GOP disunity would imply. Should Trump assume the White House, cooperation could follow swiftly with Establishment leaders in Congress on several key issues —even if high-profile battles were to ensue on trade and immigration.
Gut and Fix the Department of Veterans Affairs
Trump has repeatedly pledged to make offering a top level of care to veterans a priority of his administration and Republicans in Congress have labored against the Obama administration and an entrenched bureaucracy to do the same.
On Thursday, Trump’s campaign signaled a willingness to adopt existing Republican congressional proposals to gut the VA and replace the entire system with a privatized voucher solution.
“We want quality care top to bottom,” Trump Chief Policy Adviser Sam Clovis said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Thursday. “If that means we have some form of privatization or some form of Medicare, we don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Republican congressional leaders have proposed doing away entirely with the VA hospital system, as it has been marred by gross instances of fatal bureaucratic failure and massive government waste during the last two administrations. In its place, they’ve proposed a system somewhat resembling the health care system for the Department of Defense known as TriCare, combined with the existing VA Choice Program. The TriCare plan provides insurance coverage at a mix of private and public facilities. The Choice Program provides a voucher for coverage at private hospitals to veterans living far from a VA facility or with specific specialist needs not offered by the VA.
A reform on that scale would eliminate legions of bureaucrats, immediately open up healthcare options to waiting veterans and likely improve the quality of care available for most veterans.
End the Federal Push for Common Core
Early in the GOP primary cycle Trump used the “total disaster” of Common Core Education Standards to hammer opponents like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and others who had supported them.
Republicans in Congress have passed into law a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. On paper, it bars the secretary of education from coercing states into adopting and keeping Common Core standards — but with no teeth. That means Republican leaders in the House and Senate have already affirmed their opposition to Common Core, leaving them with little wriggle room to oppose any nominee for the Department of Education from Trump, who would totally dismantle the existing federal guidelines.
A new secretary of education firmly opposed to Common Core could immediately end the carrot and stick approach of President Obama’s administration to forcing the national standards on states.
Make Infrastructure a Priority
Increased federal dollars to rebuild a crumbling national infrastructure system has been a top policy priority for GOP leaders in Congress. The difficulty for congressional Republicans is finding adequate offsets to bump up the spending on deficient bridges, airports, railways, and mass transit systems. On the campaign trail, Trump has appeared willing to find other parts of the federal budget to slash to make dollars available for these projects.
Fixing America’s roughly 60,000 deficient bridges would be high on the list of joint priorities for Trump and GOP leaders in Congress
“If we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems — our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had — we would’ve been a lot better off,” Trump said in response to a question on the Iraq War during a December 2015 GOP debate.
Trump has repeatedly said he believes the military can be rebuilt and modernized for a fraction of the money currently shoveled to the DOD. If that rhetoric turns into actionable, successful policy-making in a Trump administration, fixing America’s roughly 60,000 deficient bridges would be high on the list of joint priorities for Trump and GOP leaders in Congress.
Revoking the Obama Iranian Nuclear Deal
GOP leaders in Congress determined to rebuild the relationship with Israel and Gulf States would likely get eagerly on board with a Trump administration ready to both practically and symbolically tear up the foreign policy legacy of President Obama by revoking the Iranian nuclear agreement.
Trump, who joined former GOP rival Sen. Ted Cruz at a Capitol Hill rally against the deal in July 2015, has called the bargain so “bad it’s suspicious.”
Reimposing sanctions on the Iranian regime — which has by expert accounts already broken some terms of the deal and persists in ballistic missile tests — would be a dramatic statement of presence for the Trump administration and dovetail with the anti-Iranian priorities of hawks and pro-Israel leaders in Congress.
The drama surrounding Speaker Paul Ryan’s reluctance to endorse Trump and the persistence of NeverTrumpers in the party may have more to do with the Establishment angling to publicly appear to still own the party than with real consideration of another Clinton administration being better for congressional GOP priorities.
If Trump assumes the Oval Office, the GOP civil war will certainly rage on as Trump’s populist priorities clash with deeply sown donor interests in the ranks of the Establishment. But there will also be a great deal of positive movement on a host of other important issues for the nation, creating opportunity for both cooperation and bargaining.