Trump goes to Washington – but congressional Republicans could cause him trouble

Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States.

When inaugurated on January 20th 2017, it will be his first experience of political office.

He has never had to compromise on policies – though often U-turning. But even a Republican-controlled Congress could cause the Trump administration trouble.

Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, was anxious to not actively campaign for Trump.

Many of Trump’s biggest supporters such as Fox News presenter Sean Hannity have called for Ryan’s ousting.

Speaker Ryan will have to meet Trump on some of his pledges. Where are the likeliest areas of cooperation and friction?



Trump has famously pledged to build a wall along the border with Mexico and to make them pay for it.

Mexican President Nieto has said this will not happen. But Trump could ask congressional Republicans to fork up more money – namely for his plans to triple the number of border guards.

Many Republicans have advocated a path to US citizenship for undocumented workers in order to expand their appeal to Latino and Asian voters.

This will be a non-starter under Trump. But Ryan may hold back from fully funding a border wall – particularly if it faces legal challenges.

Trump will likely use his executive powers in this area, such as suspending Obama’s programme permitting work visas for undocumented youth and increased screenings on Syrian refugees.



Trump has unsettled many pro-free trade Republicans like Ryan by pledging to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. He has threatened unilateral withdrawal if Canada and Mexico do not offer a better deal.

Ryan could cause the President-elect difficulties if he withdraws from free trade agreements or tries to slap 35-45% tariffs on products like steel.

Trump has pledged to pour investment into the industrial Midwest, saying tax credits could help target $1trn on bridges, highways and infrastructure.

Ryan is sceptical of a large spending programme, but to get a deal on tax cuts he may have to compromise with Trump on infrastructure spending.



The Republicans’ main ambition will be to overturn Obamacare, President Obama’s prime legislative achievement.

Trump has pledged to honour this. However, Mr Trump has praised some elements of Obamacare, such as the ban on denying insurance to people with pre-existing conditions.

Both Ryan and Trump are in a tricky position. Trump still needs to assuage the concerns of Republicans who worry he is not a true believer. But he also cannot afford to alienate his working-class base by increasing their healthcare costs.

He may have to sign legislation to cut some elements of Obamacare to keep Ryan and others on side though.

Trump’s success has partly been based on his image as an outsider who can break through Washington paralysis.

During President Obama’s eight years, congressional Republicans were seen as uncooperative and unwilling to work with him.

Now the President is someone who has never governed and won’t pivot, Republican sclerosis could harm them in the 2018 elections if Trump cannot meet his base’s expectations.



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