Trump’s State of the Union: One Year in Office and Perspectives Ahead

On Tuesday night, U.S. President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural State of the Union address before the U.S. Congress. The first State of the Union address is significant for a President as he provides the Nation with a report on fulfilling promises made as a presidential candidate while presenting as a statesman with a year of experience in office. In the case of President Trump who had no prior political experience and has an unorthodox approach to communicating on policy matters, it was an opportunity to reflect on the past year and outline the tone moving forward using a more traditional presidential pulpit.

In delivering his address, President Trump followed the structure set by Presidents before him in highlighting his successes and promoting the themes of his presidential campaign but also incorporating lessons he has learned on how to present a picture to move his outstanding priorities forward.  In the accomplishments category, Trump touted achievements during his first year on cutting taxes, reducing regulatory burdens on companies and getting confirmation of judges who align with his judicial ideology.  Finally, as those who came before him, the President used the address to push for unity but while also putting pressure on the U.S. Congress to support and pass his list of initiatives.

2018 Priorities

The President spent a good portion of his speech on the need to find a bipartisan approach on immigration.  Specifically, he cited his reform proposal including its four key elements.  The proposal would provide a pathway to citizenship for the 1.8 million immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, secure the border with Mexico with a wall, replace the current visa lottery system with one based on merit and limit to just immediate family members those relatives of US visa holders.  The immigration points also connected to his stance on the need for increased security of the US and his views on foreign policy.

On foreign policy, the President summarized efforts of the US in reducing areas in Syria and Iraq held by ISIS and his concerns with nuclear proliferation by North Korea.  He also noted his belief that the Iran Nuclear deal is fundamentally flawed.  On trade, the President highlighted the US withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement and renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  All these issues will continue to be priorities for the Administration in 2018.

A top priority of the President for this year will be rebuilding the US infrastructure. The President pressed Congress to find the funding for a $1.5 trillion package to address the US infrastructure of roads, bridges and waterways.  The President also focused on the Food and Drug Administration which he stated had approved more new and generic drugs in 2017 than in any previous year.  Along those lines, he emphasized his desire to see lower prices of prescription drugs.   Finally, the President stated he will continue to push for reducing regulations and streamlining approval processes to retain and attract businesses to the US.

Analysis

The President continues to tout his push for a pro-business environment but also his focus on issues popular to the working class and voters who helped get him elected under his America First message.  This is clear with his comments on withdrawing from or renegotiating trade deals unpopular with Americans concerned about losing their jobs, reducing drug prices and promoting paid family leave, among other priorities.  With the desire of the President to create both a pro-business atmosphere as well as tackle issues popular with key segments of voters, he is deviating in many instances from traditional policy lines drawn by Democrats and Republicans.  The result is a more business-friendly environment in general but not in every circumstance for each industry.

Conclusion

The President faces a daunting task this year in being able to move many of his priorities.  Last year, his major achievements including the passage of a tax reform bill and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch needed a simple majority in the Senate.  He will not have that option this year as he will need 60 votes in the Senate for his larger legislative priorities.  With Republicans holding a slim 51 to 49 majority and Democrats opposing many of his ideas including several provisions of his immigration package, we are likely to see continued gridlock in Congress unless bipartisan agreements are reached.  While not out of the question, such agreements will continue to be  difficult in a polarized Congress during a mid-term election year.

It will be an interesting year ahead in U.S. politics and extremely important that associations and companies maintain a strong voice in DC.

Author

Tristan North

Vice President of Government Affairs, Interel + AMG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, American Ambulance Association (AAA)

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