The question of how much President Trump gets done with Congress this year is not an equation involving two variables.
It actually involves three.
“We don’t want to set arbitrary deadlines on things. We want to get things right. We want to get them done the right way.”
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At the congressional retreat in Philadelphia Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to stake out their own turf. The pair made it clear they see the House and Senate as two different bodies, with differing responsibilities.
The Senate, for example, has to review about 1,200 presidential nominees, as well as judges and potential Supreme Court justices.
The House, on the other hand, is where the budget starts. Still, Ryan said the House understands the Senate has additional responsibilities.
What remains to be seen is how Trump tolerates a slow-moving agenda. Much like former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, an accomplished reformer, Trump will want to encourage legislators and government to “move at the speed of business” — not at the speed of government.
Trump is not likely to be too patient. He joked with the members in his speech, but did not take individual questions.
Ryan and McConnell, both Republicans, discussed the differences with the media after President Trump addressed the congressional retreat.
They stressed they were on the “same page” with Trump, despite the Senate’s busier-than-normal year. That difference in the House and Senate agendas is the reason Ryan switched from calling it the “100 Day Agenda” to the “200 Day Agenda.”
That the 2017 agenda could take most of 2017 is not likely what Trump supporters were hoping for. Trump often made campaign promises on the trail about what he would do “immediately.”
Rarely would Trump discuss what he wanted to slow-walk in the first year or two.
Trump told the GOP congressional caucus they should not expect a boring year.
“This Congress is going to be the busiest Congress … maybe ever,” said Trump.
Trump supporters are likely to want rapid changes in immigration policy, changes in the tax code, and changes in the Affordable Care Act.
Ryan and McConnell said their two main priorities are a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and tax reform.
“We don’t want to set arbitrary deadlines on things,” said Ryan. “We want to get things right. We want to get them done the right way.”
Ryan said the House also has to prioritize around real deadlines, such as April 28, which is a statutory deadline for when government funding ends. He also cited Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends.
The two GOP congressional leaders didn’t seem to promise too much more, although they didn’t rule anything out.
McConnell even addressed the “wall issue” — the funding of new border walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. McConnell said Congress planned to examine funding for the issue.
But potentially complicating issues for the Trump White House is the Republican plan to pay for increases in spending with offsets in other parts of the budget.
“If we’re going to be spending on things like, say, infrastructure, we’re going to find the fiscal space to pay for that in our spring budget,” Ryan said.
That could put Trump in a tough spot — not on the border wall, which is already authorized, but on a new infrastructure bill Trump desires to stimulate employment.
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The Democrats are trying to woo Trump with a $1 trillion, multiyear plan.
According to NBC News, it includes $210 billion for roads and bridges; $180 billion for rail and bus programs; $110 billion for sewer and water; $10 billion for Veterans Affairs refurbishing; and $75 billion for school infrastructure.
Trump could be tempted — but is not likely to ask for as much as $1 trillion from GOP leaders. Trump is a bit boxed in too, as he frequently derided President Obama for running up the debt to close to $20 trillion.
Still, congressional leaders expect an early summer passage of an infrastructure bill. They expect repeal of Obamacare by early April and a tax reform bill by late summer.