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 TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' 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 McConnellSanders hits Feinstein over Kavanaugh allegations: Now it’s clear why she did nothing for months On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal 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 PenceHillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law Overnight Defense: Trump marks 9/11 anniversary | Mattis says Assad 'has been warned' on chemical weapons | US identifies first remains of returned Korean war troops The Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2018 midterm elections: #Vote4RUTH 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 cancels Mississippi rally due to hurricane Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke GOP senators introduce bill to preserve ObamaCare's pre-existing conditions protections 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 McCaskillOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly MORE (Mo.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday MORE (W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThe Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday MORE (N.D.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterCBS Poll: Missouri, Montana Senate races in dead heats Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski Watchdog groups to file complaint against Montana candidate alleging coordination with NRA 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 SchumerHouse Dems push to delay Kavanaugh vote for investigation Democrats should end their hypocrisy when it comes to Kavanaugh and the judiciary Celebrities back both Cuomo and Nixon as New Yorkers head to primary vote MORE, who is set to take over as Senate Democratic leader, had been negotiating a far more modest package with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCorey Stewart fires aide who helped bring far-right ideas to campaign: report GOP super PAC hits Randy Bryce with ad starring his brother Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms MORE (R-Wis.) earlier this year in anticipation of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton: FBI investigation into Kavanaugh could be done quickly Hillary Clinton urges Americans to 'check and reject' Trump's 'authoritarian tendencies' by voting in midterms EXCLUSIVE: Trump says exposing ‘corrupt’ FBI probe could be ‘crowning achievement’ of presidency 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 CornynGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Blumenthal: Kavanaugh nomination should be withdrawn Cornyn takes on O'Rourke over AR-15s 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.