What to Expect in 2017: Part 1

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 20:37

WTE2017 Part 1 Blog Header

By: Arthur M. Freyre

As we embark on a new year as well as a new Administration, we can expect to see some changes. In this three part series we will look at what to expect from The Congress and the Presidency in 2017. This year will be a time of opportunities for both President-elect Trump and the GOP controlled Congress. Part 1 of this post will focus the House of Representatives.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) will preside over a GOP majority, despite the loss of six seats this past election cycle. Speaker Ryan handily won the speakership with little or no opposition from his GOP colleagues. This as well as the selection of Reince Preibus as President-elect Trump’s Chief of Staff signaled the incoming administration’s desire to work with the Congress.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Democrats will face a period of transition, as they no longer hold the majority in either the House or the Senate. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has once again been elected as House Minority Leader. Despite her re-election, unity has proven to be an issue among Democrats after Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) unsuccessfully challenged Minority Leader Pelosi for the position, showing signs of frustration with the Democratic leadership. Should the division amongst the party continue, it would come as no surprise if these frustrated Democrats assembled a voting bloc in order to swing votes in either passing or defeating pending legislation.

As this Congressional session begins issues surrounding the economy will most likely become the dominant topic on the House floor. In an interview with WPR’s Rob Ferrett, House Speaker Ryan discussed a preliminary outline of Congressional priorities in 2017 and addressed three areas that will be critical in building a stronger economy placing emphasis on the Affordable Care Act, burdensome regulations, and taxes.

“Well, we’ve got a lot of number-one priorities, I guess I’d say. The first we’re going to do is start working on a budget. And in that budget we’re going to try and bring Obamacare relief.” 

“But also [cutting back] the regulatory state, which is really putting a chilling effect on jobs, and reforming the tax code to make American businesses, particularly our manufacturers, much more competitive globally so we can grow more jobs here at home and increase take home pay, and just get faster economic growth.”

“What we ought to be doing is cleaning up our economic policy so that we’re the best...with a healthy economy, with strong companies that are in America, building, selling, exporting and engaging in the world, and pushing the values of freedom and free enterprise. That to me is what American leadership needs to look like.”[i]

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans have been working on plans to repeal the healthcare law. Though preparations have been in the works since the enactment of the law, any proposals of legislation have been thwarted by veto threats from the Obama Administration, a significant obstacle that will be removed by the President-elect. With the nomination of Representative Tom Price, M.D. (R-GA), a physician and critic of the Affordable Care Act, as Secretary of Health and Human Services, President-elect Trump has sent a very strong signal that the healthcare law can expect major changes in the near future. Rep. Price has been very vocal opponent of the ACA and even introduced legislation in 2015 to repeal Obamacare all together.[ii] Actions have already been taken towards the dismantling of the ACA just days after the Congressional session began. The Senate passed a resolution on January 12, to instruct key committees to draft legislation repealing Obamacare. The House of Representatives followed suit passing the measure a day later.

Though the initial steps have been taken to repeal the Affordable Care Act, several members of the House have voiced concern over the strategy of voting for a repeal first without having a legitimate replacement prepared. Speaker Ryan has stated that the maximum number of suitable replacement provisions should be added into the legislation to repeal Obamacare.[iii]

The next matter that Speaker Ryan would like to revisit is burdensome regulations. Notwithstanding the overlap with the Affordable Care Act, the regulatory state has increased dramatically over the past eight years.[iv] Since 2009, the Obama Administration has imposed 229 major regulations, and in 2015 alone, federal regulators issued 2,353 new rules.[v] To put that in perspective, as stated in a CRS Report on Federal Regulations, “In 2015, approximately 30% of the total pages in the Federal Register were in the “Rules and Regulations” section, the section in which final rules are published.”[vi]

One major piece of legislation that Congress will look at is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into federal law by President Obama in July 2010. Since the implementation, Republican members of Congress have been critical of its impact toward the smaller banks and community banks, especially as it relates to a financial institution's ability to make loans.[vii] While on the campaign trail, President-elect Trump stated on several occasions that he plans to dismantle Dodd-Frank, and even considered Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the bill sponsor to The Financial CHOICE Act of 2016 that proposed significant amendments to Dodd-Frank, for Treasury Secretary.

The third factor that Speaker Ryan noted as having a critical effect on the economy is the tax code. The majority of Americans have viewed the current tax code as burdensome. In 2016 a gallup poll showed that 57% of Americans felt they pay too much and 47% said their taxes are unfair. [viii] Speaker Ryan believes that reforming the tax code will allow the U.S. to be, “much more competitive globally so we can grow more jobs here at home and increase take home pay, and just get faster economic growth.”

House Republicans have an excellent opportunity to address the issues that they have campaigned for in the last six years. They can no longer use the excuse of a presidential veto for unsuccessfully converting legislation into law. The challenge for the Republican leadership is to see this opportunity as a two-year window to fulfill the promises that they have made.

To learn more about pending legislation for this upcoming Congressional Session, check us out on Twitter and Facebook. In our next segment, Part 2 of this series will turn our focus to the Senate.

[i] Ryan Outlines 2017 Congressional Priorities on WPR. (2016, December 6). Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398585

[ii] Price Introduces Empowering Patients First Act. (2015, May 13). Retrieved January 10, 2017, from https://tomprice.house.gov/HR2300

[iii] Cornwell, S. (2017, January 12). U.S. Senate Approves Measure Launching Obamacare Repeal Process. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-obamacare-idUSKBN14W0MC

[iv] Lux, M. (2016, April 14). Dodd-Frank Is Hurting Community Banks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/04/14/has-dodd-frank-eliminated-the-dangers-in-the-banking-system/dodd-frank-is-hurting-community-banks

[v] Gattuso, J. L., & Katz, D. (2016, May 23). Red Tape Rising 2016: Obama Regs Top $100 Billion Annually. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2016/05/red-tape-rising-2016-obama-regs-top-100-billion-annually#_ftn6

[vi] Carey, M. P. (2016, October 4). Counting Regulations: An Overview of Rulemaking, Types of Federal Regulations, and Pages in the Federal Register (Rep. No. R43056). Retrieved January 10, 2017, from Congressional Research Service website https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43056.pdf

[vii] Lux, M. (2016, April 14). Dodd-Frank Is Hurting Community Banks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/04/14/has-dodd-frank-eliminated-the-dangers-in-the-banking-system/dodd-frank-is-hurting-community-banks

[viii] Norman, J. (2016, April 14). Most Americans in 15 Years Say Their Tax Bill Is Too High. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/190778/americans-years-say-tax-bill-high.aspx   Gallup Poll, April 6-10