What President Hillary Clinton would do on Day 1

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Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton holds a rally at West Philadelphia High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania August 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Mark Makela - RTX2LBMU

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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, we’re taking a close look at how the presidential candidates might actually govern.

Last night, the focus was on what Donald Trump’s early days in office could look like.

Tonight, we turn to Hillary Clinton and what her campaign statements tell us about a Clinton-led White House.

John Yang takes it from there.

JOHN YANG: Hillary Clinton’s opponents have said that her presidency will be extension of the Obama agenda. But what would the early days of a Hillary Clinton White House look like? What might she propose and what could she actually get done?

For this, we turn to my colleague Lisa Desjardins. And Amie Parnes, who’s in New York. She’s the co-author of “HRC” and senior White House correspondent for The Hill.

Welcome to you both.

Amie, let me start with you.

You literally wrote the book on Hillary Clinton. What do you think her priorities will be in the first days in the White House?

AMIE PARNES, Co-author, “HRC”: Well, she’s mentioned as much on the campaign trail repeatedly.

She said that she wants to push a major infrastructure bill to fix roads and bridges and highways across the country. She also wants to do a whole immigration overhaul. And that’s something that she says is at the top, the very top of her list.

She also wants to get done campaign finance reform, and I think, also, she’s going to have to deal with the Supreme Court and whether or not she picks up Obama’s appointee and takes that forward. And that is going to be interesting to see in this political climate.

JOHN YANG: And, Amie, based on your reporting on Hillary Clinton, based on her time in the Senate, do you think she’s going to take a bipartisan approach, try to be more bipartisan than we have seen in the past?

AMIE PARNES: I definitely think so.

When you talk to people who have worked with both Clintons, they’re very much into working across the aisle, to extending an arm. I have spoken to Trent Lott about this. When he was majority leader, he worked with Majority Leader Daschle and with Bill Clinton. He feels very confident, he has said in the past, that Secretary Clinton will work in the same way.

She has a pretty good track record of working across the aisle with Republicans. She worked with Tom DeLay and other Republicans, so I think this is very much her approach. I think she’s very much a centrist and I think this is what she’s really looking to do when she takes the office.

JOHN YANG: Lisa, one of the many things you watch here at the “NewsHour” is the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Is that outreach or bipartisanship going to be replied to or answered, do you think?

LISA DESJARDINS: It remains to be seen.

In her corner, Hillary Clinton has two big factors in Congress. She has a growing women’s caucus that she’s worked with for a long time, right now, 20 female senators. It could be 19 or 20, depending on what happens this election, very likely 20.

But she also has something even better. She has a commanding general coming into his own, Chuck Schumer. And notice, in the past few years, year-and-a-half, we haven’t seen him on our air very much. That’s because he’s becoming more bipartisan himself. He’s been reaching across the aisle in preparation, I think, for becoming the new Democratic leader.

So, he’s trying to build that groundwork for her. She has got that. She also, however, John, has some conservative Democratic senators who are not going to agree with her on everything.

JOHN YANG: And talk more about the women senators. It’s a very tight group, as you know, and includes Republicans. Could that help her reach across the aisle?

LISA DESJARDINS: I’m sure she’s hoping so.

It is an interesting group, because they eat dinner together, they support each other, they want to grow their ranks across the aisle. But some of them are in very risky Senate seats and they can only go so far. If Hillary Clinton is perceived as unpopular as she becomes president, some of these female senators are not going to take a big risk for her. They’re not going to support maybe tax cuts — or tax increases for the wealthy.

They may support some things that are more across-the-board popular, like a change in child care or perhaps a smaller infrastructure plan than the one Hillary Clinton is proposing now.

JOHN YANG: Amie, you mentioned the Supreme Court vacancy. That could be an issue that she’s got to deal with starting essentially on day one. What do you think that will tell us about the rest of her — about her approach to Congress, about her attitude toward Congress?

AMIE PARNES: It will tell us a lot, and she’s going to have quite a little debacle, because she’s going to face some stress and some pressure from the left.

They’re going to want her to not go with someone like Merrick Garland and pick someone who is a little more of their liking and of their ilk. And then she’s going to face — it basically shows what she’s going to do with Republicans, if she kind of, you know, walks toward them a little bit and offers someone who’s more centrist.

I think it’s very much — you can kind of read the tea leaves there and see how she’s going to govern.

JOHN YANG: And, Lisa, do you think the leaders on the Hill, the Republican leaders on the Hill, are going to take that as an indication as well?

LISA DESJARDINS: Absolutely. It will be one of the first big signs of how she’s going to work with them or not.

And it’s even more important than just sort of predicting what the next few years are going to be. That Supreme Court choice may determine what she can do on immigration, not just any comprehensive reform that may or may not go through Congress, but can she issue executive orders, can she keep President Obama’s executive orders?

That Supreme Court choice will determine all of that.

JOHN YANG: Amie, are there things that she might try to do by executive action, rather than going to Congress first?

AMIE PARNES: I think there are quite a few.

I think she’s going to try to take Obama’s executive actions a little further on immigration, I think maybe on climate. She has basically tiptoed and hinted as much about this. And she’s been asked about this. I think a lot of Republicans kind of feel threatened that she’s already talking about taking executive action.

I think her first step would be to work with Congress, and I think that’s her preference, so I don’t think she’s going to move right away into executive action.

JOHN YANG: And, Lisa, what’s her relations with, or what do you think the relations will be between the Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and the Republican leader — we don’t know if he will be majority or minority — and the House speaker, who likely will remain House speaker, Paul Ryan?

LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

Both of those men have their own very complex dynamics within their caucuses or conferences. We know that Hillary Clinton has worked with Mitch McConnell in the past.

We understand it’s a relationship of respect, not a particularly warm relationship necessarily, vs. Mitch McConnell who did work perhaps best of all with Joe Biden. That’s something she will have to work on, but there is a potential there.

Paul Ryan, I think, he is someone who has such difficult dynamics in his own conference. He has the far right, who sometimes says they will just jump ship on him. He’s got moderates. Those are things that the White House under Hillary Clinton is going to have to be very tactical about.

They are strategists. They’re going to try to use that to their advantage, but it’s difficult for them, because sometimes Paul Ryan cannot make the decisions himself for his conference.

JOHN YANG: Amie, we have less than 30 seconds left, but how do you think a President Hillary Clinton would make use of a President Bill Clinton?

AMIE PARNES: I think that’s a really interesting question, and a lot of us want to know that.

She talked about making him maybe an economic adviser, and got a little bit of pushback for that. But I think she is definitely going to put him to use. He is not going to have the traditional spouse role. She will definitely, obviously, send him to Capitol Hill, I would think, to work with people that he knows.

And she will probably host — she and he maybe will host meetings at the White House for both Democrats and Republicans. And I’m sure that’s something that they want to start right away.

JOHN YANG: Amie Parnes, Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.

AMIE PARNES: Thank you.

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