Five areas where Trump and Dems could make a deal
Democrats on Capitol Hill will try to block much of Trump’s agenda during the next four years.
But there are some areas where the incoming administration and minority Democrats could find room for cooperation, including infrastructure, trade deals, the minimum wage and entitlements.
Both sides risk a serious backlash from their respective bases if they pursue too close of an alliance, but there are potential upsides, as well.
For Trump, using the opposing party could help him cobble together the votes needed to push parts of his populist agenda through Congress. And for Democrats, it’s a way to exploit divisions between Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans to achieve some of their policy goals.
With that in mind, here are several policy areas where Trump and the Democrats could join forces.
Trump can act on his own to begin changing America’s overseas trade agreements, which he derided on the campaign trail.
But he will need Congress’s help to put in place new trade policies, a painstaking process that could take years.
To do that, he could turn to Democrats, who have traditionally been more averse to free trade than Republicans.
Trump could attempt to pick up Democratic votes to ratify a rewrite of NAFTA, if he is able to succeed in potential future negotiations with Canada and Mexico.
He could also pitch them on his proposed tariff on imports, which has been met with crickets from Republicans.
Some Democrats who are skeptical of free trade have already made overtures to Trump on the issue. Progressive groups have praised his nominee for U.S. Trade Representative.
But they have also threatened to whack Trump if he veers off course.
“During the campaign, President-elect Trump promised to reform American trade policy, but a promise is not enough,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said earlier this month.
Boosting the federal minimum wage — which currently sits at $7.25 per hour — has long been a major policy goal for Democrats.
They are hoping they have an ally in the new president.
Trump sent conflicting signals during the campaign about what he wants to do with the minimum wage, which has not been raised in seven years.
During a November 2015 GOP primary debate, Trump famously said that wages in the U.S. are “too high.”
He has said he supports raising it to as much as $10 per hour.
“I would leave it and raise it somewhat,” Trump told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in a July interview. “You need to help people — and I know it’s not very Republican to say.”
Democrats, many of whom want to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, have been discouraged by Trump’s pick of fast food executive Andrew Puzder to lead the Department of Labor, in part because he opposes a minimum wage increase.
“Mr. Puzder is the classic example of a millionaire CEO who nickel-and-dimes workers while raking in profits for himself,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said last month. “He has spoken out against increasing the minimum wage.”
Among Trump’s most prominent — and consistent — vows on the campaign trail was to move quickly on a sweeping package designed to improve the nation’s roads, bridges and infrastructure.
It’s an idea long-championed by Obama and congressional Democrats, who repeatedly ran into a buzz saw of opposition from Republicans, primarily over the scope of federal spending and how the massive costs would be paid for.
Trump is attempting to ease those concerns by pushing the Republicans’ favored “public-private” strategy, in which Washington would provide financial incentives, largely through tax breaks, to encourage buy-in from private companies. But Elaine Chao, Trump’s pick to head the Transportation Department, told a Senate panel last week that Trump’s plan will also feature direct federal spending — an idea that may need Democratic support to move through Congress.
“Private tax breaks … will only aid infrastructure projects that have their own revenue stream,” Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), senior Democrat on the Commerce Committee’s surface transportation subpanel, warned Chao.
Finding the right balance will be tricky, as Republicans are insisting that any infrastructure package must curtail regulations — a strategy sure to alienate Democrats — while Trump is also promoting so-called Buy American provisions certain to get pushback from Republicans.
But it’s the funding question that will pose the highest hurdle — a dynamic Chao acknowledged.
“The pay-fors for any infrastructure proposal are all challenging, and all have their particular champions and … detractors,” she said, vowing to work with both parties. “We cannot do this alone.”
Medicare drug-price negotiations
Trump’s attack on the law barring Medicare from negotiating drug prices breaks with the long-held position of Republicans, who secured the ban when Medicare’s prescription drug program was created in 2003.
But the president-elect has vowed to press on, using last week’s press conference to accuse the “disastrous” industry of “getting away with murder.”
The comments are music to the ears of Democrats, who have pushed for years to undo the negotiation ban.
“I like what I’m hearing,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who introduced legislation this month allowing Medicare to purchase drugs in bulk directly through the companies.
“If President-elect Trump was serious,” Welch said, “I will work with him to make it happen.”
Trump would need the Democrats’ help.
“I don’t speak like that, generally speaking,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot more we can do to bring down the price of drugs.”
The issue could leave Rep. Tom Price in a tough spot. The Georgia Republican, who’s been opposed to Medicare drug negotiation, is Trump’s pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department.
Trump’s populist campaign message included promises to keep Social Security intact, marking another break with Republicans that puts the president-elect squarely in line with Democrats.
GOP leaders have proposed for years to scale back benefits under the popular seniors’ program, including provisions to hike the eligibility age and lower payments for wealthier seniors. Ryan, a former Budget Committee chairman, has frequently been the face of those provisions.
Trump has attacked such changes, and Reince Priebus, Trump’s soon-to-be chief of staff, said Sunday they’ll be off the table in the coming budget debates.
“There are no plans in President-elect Trump’s policies moving forward to touch Medicare and Social Security,” Priebus told ABC’s “This Week”program.
Democrats are not about to let the incoming administration forget the promise.
Sanders, a liberal icon whose presidential bid has given him a national stage, arrived on the chamber floor this month hauling a poster-sized depiction of a Trump campaign tweet boasting of his plans to preserve the big entitlement programs.
“I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid,” read Trump’s tweet.
“Millions of people voted for him,” Sanders said, “on the belief that he would keep his word.”