Congressional Republicans came to town with an ambitious agenda and high expectations. But as President Donald Trump prepares to deliver his first joint address to the House and Senate, that agenda has not moved as quickly as members — or Trump — anticipated.
The realities of governing, coupled with challenges brought on by the Trump administration, have thwarted an aggressive to-do list that focused on reversing many of the previous administration’s actions.
Trump will take the podium with few legislative accomplishments. However, he is expected to tout his first month in office and promote his goals for the next year in what is expected to be a broad speech full of ideas but short on specifics.
Here’s a look at where the Republican agenda stands in Congress:
Bold plans on health care
With a Republican in the White House, the GOP-controlled congress was ambitious in a quick timeline to pass a repeal bill after six years of voting to do just that. But the process was dramatically slowed as some members expressed nervousness about repealing a bill without a replacement and disagreements emerged among Republicans about what a replacement should look like and how to pay for it. Now nearly two months into the session, Congress has yet to present a bill. A draft bill was leaked last week but Republican leaders caution that a new version could emerge. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s latest timeline is the presentation of a bill before the full House the first full week of March – a date that is quickly approaching.
Republicans’ next big agenda item is tax reform, but tensions have emerged early in the process between each body of Congress and the White House. Central to Speaker Ryan’s corporate tax reform plan is something called the border adjustment tax, which taxes any product of good or part imported into the United States. Trump has signaled hesitation on the idea, calling it “too complicated,” and Senate Republicans have no interest in what many say would make products more expensive for American consumers. Some have even said it would cause a trade war. The original goal for tax reform was late spring but a more likely timeline appears to be July, before the month-long August recess.
Rolling back regulations
Reversing some of President Barack Obama’s regulations is perhaps the biggest accomplishment for Republicans so far. Trump has already signed three measures, including one that rolls back environmental protections. The House passed additional measures that now have to be taken up by the Senate, including one that reverses the ban on allowing mentally ill people from purchasing firearms.
What President Trump wants to achieve
One of Trump’s biggest priorities is infrastructure. Republicans in Congress, however, are less eager to spend a proposed trillion dollars on repairing the nation’s roads and bridges. Congress hasn’t addressed it and with little buy in from Congress, it could quickly be put on the back burner.
Begin work on that wall
Congress is expecting an emergency funding bill this spring to begin funding Trump's wall along the Mexican border, which is expected to cost billions of dollars. Construction won't begin until the funding bill is received.
Complete the cabinet
Because of Democrats’ ability to slow-walk the confirmation process, Trump’s cabinet is not fully in place. A handful of positions remain open and the nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andy Puzder, withdrew his name after ongoing scrutiny and concerns raised by Republicans. Because the confirmation process has been so time-consuming, the Senate has done little legislating other than putting Trump’s cabinet in place.
Appoint Gorsuch to SCOTUS
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is on his way to hold courtesy meetings with all the members of the Senate but he has yet to have his confirmation hearings, which are scheduled for March 20.
Allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election and the resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after questions about the content of phone calls with a Russian official has forced Congress to take up investigating the developments. It is an investigation that has expanded and is being looked at by at least five committees. While committees can focus on multiple issues at a time, it is using valuable resources and time and a constant story that Republicans are asked about when they’d rather be focusing their news cycle on their legislative agenda.