While Democrats around the country try to “process” what happened last week, wily Chuck Schumer is planning what will happen next year. The soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader announced that, unlike Republicans during the Obama years, the Democrats won’t reflexively oppose whatever the president proposes. Instead, they will consider each proposal on its merits and work with President Trump when they consider his proposals meritorious.
Schumer isn’t just saying this to look good. He hopes, and expects, that Trump will send up legislation congenial to liberalism.
What kind of legislation? The New York Times cites infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave, and dismantling trade agreements.
I’m not sure how enthusiastic Schumer will be about “dismantling trade agreements,” but the other items constitute a mini-agenda liberals can love, and Trump has spoken favorably about each. Indeed, infrastructure spending was the first policy idea Trump mentioned in his speech the morning he was elected.
The merits aside, Schumer sees these items as wedge issues for Republicans. As the Times puts it, “Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles.”
Trump would be well-advised to keep the number of wedge issues to a minimum. He seems committed, though, to infrastructure spending. He sees infrastructure restoration as a “make America great again” initiative. He may also sense that, with the economic recovery (such as it is) nearing the normal expiration date for recoveries, an economic stimulus is in order.
Republicans are unlikely to oppose an infrastructure spending program with sufficient unity to overcome Democratic support. Thus, such a program may be one of the primary legislative accomplishments (if that’s the right word) of Trump’s first term.
Conservative accomplishments may be few and far between. Unless the legislative filibuster is repealed, Republicans will be hard-pressed to pass conservative legislation in the Senate.
They should be able to repeal Obamacare, though. This can be accomplished through the reconciliation process by a majority vote, the filibuster being unavailable. In fact, Congress did repeal Obamacare, only to see President Obama veto the repeal.
Thus, the first two big ticket legislative accomplishments of a Trump administration may be infrastructure spending and Obamacare repeal. If so this would cover the same territory as Obama’s first two significant accomplishments — economic stimulus and health care.