With Inauguration Day just around the corner, we’re beginning to see some clear-cut battle lines drawn on Capitol Hill as the Republican-controlled Congress begins to look at what they can (and can’t) get done with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Will Trump be able to bend the legislative branch to his will, or can Republicans sway him toward principled conservatism with rank-and-file leadership?
For their part, the Democrats appear to be without a leader as Obama leaves office. That leaves them to totally reshape their message, after massive losses on the state level have trickled up into Washington with the election of Trump and a resounding rejection of their identity politics theme.
That being said, here we take a look at five hot issues that will mark the president-elect’s first 100 days in office:
Russian policy: Did they or didn’t they?
On the campaign trail, Trump tweeted his admiration for President Putin of the Kremlin and KGB fame, all while saying it “wouldn’t be such a bad thing” if the U.S. and Russia rebuilt their relations.
Then came Wikileaks revelations exposing questionable email chains from members in the DNC, and Hillary Clinton longtime aide John Podesta. Twitter went berserk after DNC staffer Seth Rich was found murdered, and Ecuadorian stowaway Julian Assange hinted Russia was not the source of the leaks he received.
U.S. intelligence agencies have pointed the finger at Russia, however, even as Trump has denied they had influenced the elections. After the Obama administration announced new sanctions on the Russians, it remains to be seen how the drama will shape foreign policy with the Kremlin during Trump’s tenure.
A showdown with Democrats and Trump’s nominee confirmations
Under the leadership of Sen. Chuck Schemer, the Democrats in the Senate are preparing to do their due diligence to dig up dirt and work to prevent at least some of the Cabinet-level nominees the Trump transition team has named to lead top departments responsible for steering the nation.
According to CNN, sources have declared that secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, attorney general pick Jeff Sessions and health and human services secretary hopeful Tom Price are all facing the prospect of obstructionism in the Senate as progressives work to reshape the party following stunning losses in elections throughout the country.
Five others have been targeted by the relatively powerless Senate Democrats. Under Obama, the rules were amended for a simple majority to confirm nominees, which is set to backfire now that an overwhelmingly conservative Cabinet is set to take shape.
Trump and House Speaker Ryan might have a testy relationship
While the Republicans are united over the effort to repeal (and replace) Obamacare — which should happen in Trump’s first 100 days — there are significant items on the president-elect’s agenda that may put them at odds with the White House.
Consider Trump’s base is far different than the voters who in the past have backed rank-and-file Republicans on Capitol Hill, and he is not fond of being associated with unpopular programs. His infrastructure plan could involve a trillion-dollar federal spending spree bound to add to the federal budget, which pits him against House Speaker Paul Ryan and some of the more seasoned conservatives.
Ryan is also looking to secure permanent tax cuts that overwhelmingly favor wealthier Americans and financiers, while Trump’s base of support finds Wall Street contemptible in the wake of stagnant wages and underemployment following the Great Recession. Just how his Administration responds to Republican demands in the new tax deal will be a highlight of the changes coming to Washington.
We’ll see just how big (and beautiful) Trump’s wall can be
There’s been a bubbling frustration with average Americans whose sons and daughters are blocked from entry-level jobs in the workforce, jobs that have been either outsourced or taken by illegal labor over the past couple decades.
That frustration found its embodiment on the 2016 campaign trail with the president-elect, erasing any hope of a bipartisan deal on immigration reform.
He has of course promised to build a “big, beautiful” wall along the southern border of the U.S. between it and Mexico — and have Mexico pay for it. His transition team has reportedly sought detailed information from the Department of Homeland Security in recent weeks, perhaps in preparation of a deportation force or more fencing and surveillance.
How will we treat the coal miner’s daughter?
The Rust Belt famously delivered Trump some big wins on Election Day, and other left-leaning states found themselves under the Trump tent after he promised better jobs and more rights for workers in the nation’s mining industry.
That sets up a battle over the federal budget, unless a bipartisan deal can be worked out between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Democrats who hail from states hurt by healthcare laws and EPA regulations.
A stopgap bill was passed in Decemberafter West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin dropped his fight over a potential government shutdown, but the Senate must come to terms on a new one within four months. Trump made a long list of promises to coal country, who helped him into office, which could give those Democrats an unlikely ally in the White House.