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 TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports 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 McConnellTrump has talked to associates about forming new political party: report McConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment 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 PenceHere's how presidents move into the White House in just hours on Inauguration Day New York court worker arrested, accused of threats related to inauguration Meghan McCain: Trump's legacy is DC looking like a 'war zone' 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 WickerWall Street Journal: GOP Electoral College 'stunt' will hurt US, Republican Party Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over Southwest Airlines says it won't furlough workers after Trump signed relief 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 McCaskillLobbying world Former McCaskill aides launch PAC seeking to thwart Hawley Ex-GOP senator blasts Hawley's challenge to electoral vote count as 'highly destructive attack' MORE (Mo.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag Josh Hawley has a new publisher — that's good news This week: Tensions running high in Trump's final days MORE (W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHarrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA guidance may exempt some water polluters from Supreme Court permit mandate | Vilsack's stock rises with Team Biden | Arctic wildfires linked to warming temperatures: NOAA MORE (N.D.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency 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 SchumerChuck SchumerNew York court worker arrested, accused of threats related to inauguration Schumer: Trump should not be eligible to run for office again McConnnell, McCarthy accept Biden invitation to pre-inauguration church service MORE, who is set to take over as Senate Democratic leader, had been negotiating a far more modest package with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRevising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices Paul Ryan will attend Biden's inauguration COVID-19 relief bill: A promising first act for immigration reform MORE (R-Wis.) earlier this year in anticipation of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene referred to Parkland school shooting as 'false flag' event on Facebook Senators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS CNN poll: Melania Trump leaving office as least popular first lady ever 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 CornynMcConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment Schumer: Trump should not be eligible to run for office again Harris to resign from Senate seat on Monday 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.