The opening measures of the Trump presidency have been a wild percussion of nomination fights, executive orders, booming tweets, errant tweets, memos sent, memos received and memos denied. But after that first rapid-fire burst of a month, Republicans are now staring at large, sweeping decisions that they have considered for years, but must make soon.
Let’s set aside the smaller picture and look at five major issues near a turning point for the president and the Republican-controlled Congress.
Budget cuts: Congress must decide if it will keep the sequester — the automatic budget caps across government that are set to return starting in October. The debate process starts in the next six weeks. Republicans want to reverse scheduled cuts for defense. ($100 billion-plus over the next four years.)
But it’s not clear how they’d offset that money. This could mean deeper cuts for the rest of government or money-raising proposals that need close scrutiny.
Affordable Care Act details: While House Republicans did give members a broad outline of their repeal plans, they have yet to decide on the hard parts: how to pay for any increased costs and whether they will guarantee that as many Americans will be covered under their plan.
The travel order: We are waiting for President Trump’s new executive order on travel sometime this week. He described it as “extreme vetting,” and said it would be closely tailored to court decisions that have blocked his original order. Many of the same issues are in play along with a potential change in the timing of the rollout.
Deportations: Who and how many people precisely will President Trump target with deportation? Weekend stories indicated both that DHS Secretary John Kelly has signed a new memo about enforcement and that it is not yet final.
And the L.A. Times reported that the White House is considering ending some protections for so-called “Dreamers.” As fear builds in the immigrant community, so does pressure to decide.
Earmarks: Don’t wait for someone to say the word “earmarks.” But you could see more of them, as members of Congress increasingly discuss them by their formal title — “Congressionally-directed spending.”
Republicans must decide whether to ramp up the use of the district-by-district projects that critics say can be giveaways. The decision could impact bills large and small, and the way Congress operates in general.
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