Trump, GOP plot ambitious agenda

Congressional Republicans, who were bracing for major losses on Election Day, are now drafting an ambitious agenda that will seek to torpedo President Obama’s major accomplishments over the last eight years.

With Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE’s shocking presidential victory and the GOP keeping control of the Senate and a comfortable majority in the House, the party is well-positioned to play offense in 2017.


Republican lawmakers on Wednesday were already talking about reaching out to Democrats to put together a package to repeal key parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare, and replace it with other reforms, such as letting insurance companies sell across state lines.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Poll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters Wednesday that repealing ObamaCare will be one of the top priorities of the new Congress.

“It’s a pretty high item on our agenda as you know,” McConnell said. “I would be shocked if we didn’t move forward to keep our commitment to the American people.”

McConnell called it “the single worst piece of legislation among many pieces of legislation passed in the first two years of the Obama presidency. The sooner we can go in a different direction, the better.”

The GOP leader made his comments after speaking to Trump and Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence going to Colombia to demand Maduro step down Grenell: Push to decriminalize homosexuality 'wildly supported' by both parties Marc Short to return to White House as Pence’s chief of staff MORE.

Rising ObamaCare premiums, announced this fall, provided Republicans some momentum.

McConnell declined to say whether Senate Republicans would repeal the landmark healthcare law with a party-line vote under a special process known as budgetary reconciliation. That would require only 51 votes. The new Congress will have 52 Senate Republicans. 

One of McConnell’s biggest criticisms of Senate Democrats is that they passed the law in 2010 without any bipartisan buy-in.

One of his deputies, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTrump signs executive order to boost AI technology Hillicon Valley: Feds looking into Bezos claims about National Enquirer | Amazon reconsidering New York City HQ2 move | Sprint sues AT&T over 5G marketing claims Senate to hold hearing on potential privacy bill MORE (Miss.), told reporters earlier in the day that he hoped the special budgetary process might not be necessary and that Democrats might be willing to negotiate reforms. 

“Let’s see if we can reach some sort of consensus with our Democrat friends on trying to make this repeal and replace [work],” Wicker said. “I would hope that members of the Democratic Party are looking at the election results … and also not only that but the premium increases and would understand that the American people are dissatisfied with this failed program.”

Many red-state Democrats are up for reelection in 2018, including Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillPoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell McCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor MORE (Mo.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Gabbard cites ‘concerns’ about ‘vagueness’ of Green New Deal MORE (W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (N.D.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal How the border deal came together MORE (Mont.). 

Trump has proposed replacing ObamaCare with health savings accounts and allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines in all 50 states.

Republicans have used reconciliation previously to get around the Senate’s filibuster and approve an ObamaCare repeal.

There’s a keen sense of urgency among Republican lawmakers, who realize after six years of split government that they have a rare opportunity before them.

McConnell said he expects the GOP-controlled Congress to work closely with Trump and to negotiate quietly behind the scenes over issues where they disagree, such as trade.  

One major issue looming is the vacancy on the Supreme Court created in February when conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died.

Republicans expect Trump to nominate a conservative in Scalia’s mold whom they will move through Judiciary Committee hearings and to a floor vote in the first few months of 2017. Trump has floated conservative jurists such as Diane Sykes, a member of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and William Pryor, a judge on the 11th Circuit Court.

It’s a dramatic turn from only a few days ago, when Republicans were bracing for a battle with Democrats over immigration reform and a liberal Supreme Court nominee.

GOP strategists, even ones close to the Trump campaign, gave themselves little chance of keeping the White House as recently as Tuesday afternoon. CNN’s Jim Acosta reported shortly before the polls closed that a Trump adviser confided that it would take a “miracle” to win.

Now pro-business proposals that seemed destined for partisan gridlock have a real chance of becoming law because Republicans control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Wall Street rallied Wednesday and the Dow Jones industrial average hit an all-time high of 18,589.

On deck is an overhaul of the nation’s tax code that would close loopholes and cut rates, a major deregulatory push and tighter security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

McConnell said Wednesday that a broad package reforming tax rates for individuals, small businesses and corporations may be within reach next year — a goal many Republicans had given up on for the near term.

“He talked about tax reform,” McConnell said of Trump’s campaign pledges. “I think this is really important.”

Trump has proposed condensing the current seven tax brackets into three and lowering the rate for the nation’s highest income earners to 33 percent.

New York Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE, who is set to take over as Senate Democratic leader, had been negotiating a far more modest package with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE (R-Wis.) earlier this year in anticipation of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring 4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Hillary Clinton met with Biden, Klobuchar to talk 2020: report MORE winning.

The other top Trump priority is building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which drew plenty of criticism on the campaign trail.

McConnell stopped short of committing to funding the construction of a massive wall running hundreds of miles through the desert but expressed strong support for tougher border security.

“We’re going to be talking to the president[-elect] about his agenda. Border security is important,” he said. “Achieving border security is something I think should be high on the list.”

Comprehensive immigration reform such as a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, which Democrat Clinton planned to move in her first 100 days in office if elected, is likely dead.

On the foreign policy front, GOP lawmakers are looking toward a tougher approach against radical Islamic terrorism and re-implementing sanctions against Iran.

Trump repeatedly bashed Clinton and Obama throughout the campaign for telegraphing its military plans, giving militants time to flee U.S. strikes. Trump has called for aggressive operations to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He has called for rebuilding the military and improving intelligence capabilities, which will likely require more funding from Congress. 

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynInviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Trump endorses Cornyn for reelection as O'Rourke mulls challenge O’Rourke not ruling out being vice presidential candidate MORE (Texas) called the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism “real and growing” in his statement congratulating Trump on his victory.

GOP priorities that had seemed dead now have new life, such as construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which Obama shelved. 

Republicans also say the tide has turned in what they call Obama’s war on coal. McConnell noted Wednesday that many of the new regulations affecting the coal industry were passed unilaterally by the Obama administration and can be unraveled by Trump without congressional action.

Before kicking off the 115th Congress, however, congressional Republicans need to wrap up unfinished business in the lame-duck session scheduled for late November and December.

Lawmakers must figure out a way to fund the government beyond Dec. 9 either through a long-term continuing resolution that freezes spending levels or an omnibus package that sets new funding priorities. Another measure that is likely to pass is the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill funding innovative healthcare research.