What he’ll do in office is almost equally mysterious, not least because the candidate’s positions on many key issues have shifted over the course of his public life and campaign.
Still, with Congress remaining under GOP control and Trump about to assume office as a Republican, here are the early moves we expect to see.
The U.S. Gets a Giant New Infrastructure Bill
President-elect Trump will make infrastructure a high priority because it will give him a speedy bipartisan win. Members of both parties love spending money on roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure. As a former Capitol Hill staffer memorably put it, “The smell of hot tar is an aphrodisiac to legislators.”
Last year, Congress passed a five-year, $305 billion highway bill, which President Obama signed into law, but legislators will vote for more because Democrats view it as a jobs measure and Republicans crave the corporate tax reform that’s likely to accompany it.
Climate Change Rules Are Rolled Back
Trump will launch his first attack on Obama’s climate-change legacy by moving to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, the current administration’s ambitious attempt to dramatically cut carbon emissions via pollution regulations. It would probably take Trump’s team a year to unwind the rule, which was finalized in 2015 and for now remains tied up in a court challenge. But shots are likely to be fired early.
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There Will Finally Be (Partial) Tax Reform
Congress will change the corporate tax code to encourage (or compel) companies to repatriate trillions in overseas cash at a low tax rate. The revenue generated by that deal will give Congress cover to pass some of the deficit-swelling income tax cuts that Trump and the GOP have backed.
The Pendulum Swings Against Immigrants
Trump won’t be able to assemble his promised “deportation force” to boot undocumented immigrants from the country. But he will rescind Obama’s executive order allowing about 800,000 immigrants who came here as children to stay on two-year work permits.
Efforts to End Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Fail Again
Action on this issue draws heavy bipartisan support, in part because it would reduce public spending on jails and prisons. But Trump’s emotional law-and-order campaigning has made it untouchable for the coming year.
China Will Be Trump’s First Foreign Policy Test
Look for China to test Donald Trump’s commitment to our Asian allies by stepping up aggressive naval maneuvers around the Senkaku Islands. Japan controls the uninhabited archipelago near Taiwan, but China has been escalating a challenge to the claim, and the dispute has the potential to get ugly. Trump has made clear he wants to scale back American guarantees to defend Japan and others in the region. The Chinese will be eager to flex their muscles in a bid for new elbow room.