The top of the GOP’s to-do list for 2018 looks just a bit clearer after President Trump, administration officials and congressional Republican leaders spent two days hashing out their plans at Camp David this weekend. Here’s what you need to know to be, like, really smart about the policy issues that might be on the agenda before the November elections.
Infrastructure: A plan to fund roads, bridges and other infrastructure investment is likely to be the White House’s next big legislative push — but President Trump is already complicating those efforts. The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey reports that the president “expressed misgivings” about his administration’s infrastructure plans in meetings at Camp David. Trump reportedly questioned the effectiveness of public-private partnerships for major building projects, a key element of his plan to boost infrastructure investment by $1 trillion.
It’s not the first time Trump has argued that such partnerships simply don’t work — but such arrangements were nevertheless part of a detailed proposal presented by White House economic adviser Gary Cohn at Camp David on Saturday. Cohn again laid out a plan to have the federal government spend $200 billion on infrastructure in the hope that it could spur $800 billion or more in private, state and local spending.
“The seemingly contradictory statements, made within 24 hours of each other, show the uncertainty of the administration's approach to its top legislative priority in 2018,” Dawsey wrote, adding that some administration aides who have worked on infrastructure plans for months have been “infuriated and surprised” by Trump’s talking down public-private partnerships.
A White House spokesperson provided the Post with this statement: “The President’s infrastructure vision is very clear and is based around 2 main goals: leveraging federal funds as efficiently as possible in order to generate over $1 trillion in infrastructure investment and expediting the burdensome and lengthy permitting process.”
Immigration: Trump on Saturday held out hope that Republicans could work out a deal with Democrats to protect hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. But his demand for funding for the border wall and revamping the legal immigration system angered Democrats. Progress here is likely to be sloooow.
Welfare reform: Trump on Saturday appeared to back away from prioritizing changes to anti-poverty programs. The president himself had brought up the issue in recent weeks, and it’s a top priority for House Speaker Paul Ryan and other House Republicans. But rounding up the necessary votes would likely be difficult, especially in a narrowly divided Senate. “It’s a subject that’s very dear to our heart,” Trump said Saturday. “We’ll try and do something in a bipartisan way. Otherwise, we’ll be holding it for a little bit later.”