In his first official State of the Union Address last night, President Trump made the case for his first year in office as one of extraordinary legislative and regulatory accomplishments as part of his Administration’s efforts to build a “Safe, Strong, and Proud America.” In his remarks before a joint session of Congress 11 months ago, the President had called on Congress to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), to enact a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, to adopt comprehensive immigration reform legislation and to adopt tax reform legislation that would make American companies more competitive and would provide “massive tax relief for the middle class.”
Legislatively speaking, 2017 was not a year of major legislative accomplishments . . . until it was, as the year ended on a particularly high note, when Congress approved and President Trump signed into law the first major overhaul of the tax code since 1986.
A year ago, we suggested that year one of the Trump presidency might end up looking a lot like the Trump presidential campaign: chaotic, disorganized, controversial and divisive, but nonetheless, somewhat effective, in spite of itself. We argued that moving an infrastructure bill would be a way to accomplish something important with bipartisan support. We also previewed a path for tax reform, especially given the decade of preparatory work by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). That Republicans would overcome deep philosophical differences to work together in rare harmony in what was arguably the most discordant legislative year in modern history is not something we saw coming. But the way in which they won that victory will likely have significant ramifications for the year ahead.
As the President emphasized last night, the economic state of the union appears to be quite strong. Unfortunately, as the Democratic response confirmed, the state of affairs on Capitol Hill is anything but.
The second session of the 115th Congress will be no more predictable than the roller-coaster ride that was the first session. With the added dynamic of 2018 being a mid-term election year, the second session could be even more divisive and tumultuous. But we would caution against making the assumption that nothing of consequence will happen. To date, the American experience with Donald Trump in government and politics alike has been that when it comes to results, he tends to end up exceeding conventional wisdom and expectations – often, it would seem, in spite of himself.