President returns to Washington to face legislative challenges
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has returned from an end-of-year holiday to face fresh legislative challenges, midterm elections and threats abroad.
The President is hoping for more legislative achievements after his pre-Christmas success on taxes. He plans to host Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin at Camp David next weekend to map out the 2018 legislative agenda.
Republicans are eager to make progress before attention shifts to the midterm elections. The GOP wants to hold House and Senate majorities in 2018, but must contend with recent unpopularity and the Democratic wins.
The President concluded 2017 with his first major legislative achievement — a law to cut taxes, beginning this year, for corporations and individuals at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion added to the national debt over 10 years. The tax overhaul also will end the requirement, in 2019, that all Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine. That’s a key component of the Obama-era health law that that Republicans have been unable to repeal; other features of the law remain intact.
The White House has said President Trump will come forward with his long-awaited infrastructure plan in January. President Trump has also said he wants to overhaul welfare and recently predicted Democrats and Republicans will “eventually come together” to develop a new health care plan.
Ryan has talked about overhauling Medicaid and Medicare and other safety-net programs, but McConnell has signaled an unwillingness to go that route unless there’s Democratic support for any changes. Republicans will have just a 51-49 Senate majority — well shy of the 60 votes needed to pass most bills — giving leverage to Democrats.
Congress also has to deal with a backlog from 2017. It must agree on a spending bill by Jan. 19 to avert a partial government shutdown.
Lawmakers also have unfinished business on additional aid for hurricane victims, lifting the debt ceiling, extending a children’s health insurance program and extending protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. President Trump has said he wants money for a border wall in exchange for protecting those immigrants.
The President opened the second year of his presidency with tweets targeting Iran and Pakistan. He tweeted Tuesday: “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”
The day before, he slammed Pakistan for “lies & deceit,” saying the country had played U.S. leaders for “fools,” by not doing enough to control militants.
Pakistani officials, including Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, responded on Twitter that the country would make clear “the difference between facts and fiction.”
Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Monday the United States should be aware his country’s nuclear forces are now a reality, not a future threat. To that, President Trump only said: “We’ll see.”