Fresh off a victory in the tax reform fight, President Donald Trump has a rare precious commodity in hand. Momentum. After a slow start for his administration, he can use that momentum to deal with three big issues looming in 2018. Success on two of the three will make 2018 very good for him, and very good for Republicans in November. Let’s take a look at these three: a deal for the DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) kids, a large infrastructure bill and potential repeal of Obamacare.
President Trump put a clock on DACA issues last year and told Congress to put together a solution so that kids affected can stay here. The president indicated that he would like to see the kids stay in the US, so there is the basis for a good deal that can make both sides happy. And if Democrats turn down a good deal that keeps DACA kids and young adults here for the sake of “La Resistance”, they will have constituencies that will be very angry with them in a year where enthusiasm is going to be critical to victory in the mid-term elections.
The key will be the border-security end of the deal. Neither the President nor the Republicans can make a deal with no certainties on border-security measures in return for something that keeps the DACA kids here. Illegal immigration was the central issue that propelled Trump to victory, and betraying his core support on that is electoral suicide. Similarly, Congressional Republicans who already are facing unpopularity in their own party will only further stoke anti-establishment feeling if they completely cave on this issue.
The “Big Beautiful Wall” Trump campaigned on is a potentially major bargaining chip. There are already laws on the books for a border fence; all that is needed is money to finish it. If the President uses that chip, he could ask for more border patrol and national guard on the border, along with more money for immigration enforcement measures like E-Verify. Border security is a lot more than a wall. If the President is canny he can use the wall to get the border measures most Republicans want, avoid a blanket amnesty, and perhaps even set the table for reforming the rest of the immigration system next year.
It is this issue where Trump and the GOP can box in Democrats the most. “La Resistance” will demand no cooperation with them, but rarely if ever can Congress resist a potential orgy of spending and pork-barrel projects that a bill like this one can bring. I’d like to see Trump focus as much on the electrical grid as on roads and bridges. The president and the Congressional Republicans must moderate the impulse to overspend and demand that the money be tightly focused on crumbling roads and bridges that need the most urgent repair/updates. A successful bipartisan bill here also might go a long way to reducing the chasm between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., and that could help on the final big issue of 2018.
In the tax reform bill the individual mandate tax (fee/fine/etc.) was repealed. So the system that the mandate was at the heart of is collapsing (and contrary to what Democrats say, this was true in 2015 and 2016 before Trump ever got elected). Now, the messaging on this was botched in the rush to try and repeal this bill. So this time let’s get it right.
Let’s have a Congressional hearing where all the people who got thrown off their insurance and were hurt badly or even lost loved ones because of Obamacare have their say. There are thousands if not millions, who have horror stories about that and how inadequate the insurance they purchased on the exchange turned out to be. Remind Democrats that what they did was wrong, and that the system will collapse without action.
Perhaps then they will be willing to negotiate, and a lasting reform can be made law. Whatever the GOP decides to do, getting rid of insurance mandates that drive up prices and force people to pay for things they don’t want or never use ought to be the central of any reform. Also, a good proposal could include allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines and allowing people to pool their resources (families in a neighborhood, churches, whoever) to get cheaper insurance.
Should Jeff Sessions stay or go?
In the last week I’ve seen a growing call for Jeff Sessions to resign as Attorney General. And not from the left, but from conservatives that range from friends of mine on Facebook to former Congressman Jason Chaiffetz and Mark Thiessen. Some are angry with Sessions that he recused himself. Some are angry that his Department of Justice has been slow to open up investigations on things like the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and Fusion GPS. Others are angry about his decision to rescind the rule that allowed states to work there will on marijuana legalization.
Let me take those in reverse order. Sessions’ marijuana decision is a disgrace in my view, but well within his purview. Now, I believe in federalism as much as anyone, and if you want an object lesson in why it’s necessary and vital for nearly all issues (take note Democrats) it’s this one. Marijuana is not nearly as dangerous for a person to use as the hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, ecstasy nor is it a drug causing as much crime and death as opioids like Oxycontin.
It should not be the federal government’s business what states decide to do with regards to marijuana. If certain people in Congress can calm their outrage long enough, they can actually do their job and prevent Sessions from carrying this out. In fact there is a bill already, (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1227/cosponsors?pageSort=alpha) so Congress can get off its duff and send this to the President’s desk. Perhaps they and others can convince him to sign it.
The next is the lack of fervor from DOJ in investigating the things I mentioned above. But if you want an example of Sessions’ integrity (and a contrast to the staggering lack of integrity of the previous two Attorneys General), this shows that. Just because Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch weaponized DOJ to help President Barack Obama does not mean that is the right or proper thing to do. The federal government can’t become an instrument of revenge or this Republic will fall. And a lot of the investigating of these matters can and should be done by Congress.
Now to the recusal. I am not going to belabor the point about Sessions’ integrity or the fact that it’s not the AG’s job to protect the President (again imitating the previous administration is not a good idea here). And yes, Sessions was cleared four days after he recused himself and that is incredibly frustrating. But when you have such fidelity to the office and the law that Sessions has, you can’t blame him for recusing himself. The last thing Sessions wants to do is to compromise the integrity of his office or the Department, and naming a special prosecutor was the right move.
And the final reason Sessions shouldn’t resign is a political one. You saw what a circus his confirmation was. This Russia story will die if the President and Republicans let it. But if Sessions is forced out and another person has to get confirmed, you will not only give that issue life; you will ensure that the next person will be viewed as someone that can’t run the department in a fair and impartial manner. And that makes that person’s ability to be effective virtually nil. Plus, if there are career people at the DOJ trying to actively undermine the administration and the Attorney General, can we show him a little trust that he and his team will identify these people and get rid of them? How about we try that?
Leave Jeff Sessions where he is. After years of mismanagement and corruption at the Department of Justice, he is exactly the tonic the department needs.