After closing 2017 on a high, Republicans have an enormous opportunity this year if they work hard, make accomplishments and focus on real communication. Last year's stellar finish was marked by the legislature's passage of the most comprehensive tax bill in three decades and President Donald Trump's signing it into law.
In addition, the stock market had a great year in 2017. The S&P 500 has risen for 14 consecutive months. This has continued into 2018, with the NASDAQ hitting a record high this past Tuesday.
The January 1 New York Times article by Binyamin Appelbaum and Jim Tankersley titled, "The Trump Effect: Business, Anticipating Less Regulation, Loosens Purse Strings," accurately captures the current business outlook. "A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders, and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation -- and may finally raise wages significantly."
Why? "The newfound confidence was initially inspired by the Trump administration's regulatory pullback," Appelbaum and Tankersley wrote, "because the administration has instilled a faith in business executives that new regulations are not coming."
The increased business enthusiasm and the lower taxes in sight will help the legislature and the Trump administration to move forward, which they must do rapidly. On the legislative agenda is disaster relief, government spending, surveillance and immigration.
Under the category of unfinished business is a disaster aid package for states and territories recovering from last year's storm. The package passed the House, but not the Senate. The Senate wants to provide additional help for Puerto Rico, including waiving the matching-funds requirement. This should be passed as soon as possible. Better imperfect aid than delayed aid.
Great progress needs to be made by mid-January. The current government funding is set to end January 19, and the Children's Health Insurance Program, which has received bi-partisan support, needs reauthorization. The CHIP program should be fixed fast. Even after the spending is resolved, the debt limit will also need to be addressed. (The debt limit deadline will be triggered around March.) Since it doesn't make sense to approve spending money without also approving the authority to borrow that money Congress could bundle together these two items. Attempts to separate these two items by Democrats could be responded to by "that's just silly."
Included in the spending bill, which ends January 19, is authorization of a surveillance program of foreigners outside the United States. Both sides of the aisle have reservations. There is protest over concern with privacy and U.S. citizens who might be part of the surveillance.
The deadline for action on immigration is March 5, the date Trump gave for the legislature to address what to do with the Dreamers and to send him a bill before the expiration of the protections they currently enjoy. While both Republicans and Democrats support some type of protection, they differ on the details, as they do for Trump's proposal to build a physical wall between the United States and Mexico. Republicans should address this as a yes and yes issue: Yes, we will extend protections to dreamers (with details), and yes, we will build a wall. Democrats will attempt to paint their GOP counterparts as heartless, but the "yes and yes" structure will make the Republican position clear.
While these items are in front of the legislative branch, other issues are emerging as pressing. For example, there is constant news on the international front about potential points of conflict, such as North Korea and its nuclear program, Israel and the Palestinian territories, and protests in Iran.
Administration officials have been clear in seeking to secure U.S. interests first, as they should. In addition, this week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has acted as a forceful champion of freedom. "It takes great bravery for the Iranian people to use the power of their voice against the government," she said. "Especially when their government has a long history of murdering its own people who dare to speak the truth...We want to help amplify the voices of the Iranian people."
While there is a lot of hard work to be done, Republicans must also continue to communicate clearly that United States citizens come first; that we must spend to help others, but spend responsibly; that as we integrate the dreamers, we must protect our country; and that we will encourage people of other countries to seek their own freedoms and control their own destinies, just as we do.