Congressional Leaders Far Behind on 200 Day Agenda

CPI Staff — Thursday, August 10, 2017

Traditionally, new presidential administrations aim to accomplish as many legislative victories as possible within a 100 day window, attempting to ride the momentum of victory at the ballot box to real policy wins in Congress. As the History Channel notes:

“The 100-days concept is believed to have its roots in France, where the concept of “Cent Jours” (Hundred Days) refers to the period of 1815 between Napoleon Bonaparte’s return to Paris from exile on the island of Elba and his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, after which King Louis XVIII regained the French throne… In the United States, no one talked that much about the importance of a president’s first 100 days—until Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933. He took swift action to calm the nation’s crippling financial panic (cue the Emergency Banking Act and the “fireside chats” that became Roosevelt’s signature) and began rolling out the programs that made up his New Deal, including 15 major pieces of legislation in the first 100 days…”

However, this January, Republican leaders in Congress changed the timeline for expected achievements to a 200 day window, giving themselves more time to rack up accomplishments. Unfortunately for conservatives hopeful for reversal of liberal Obama policies, Congress has largely failed to achieve any meaningful victories even under this more expansive calendar.

Specifically, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced their 200 Day Agenda during the Republican Congressional Retreat in January. The 200th day of 2017 fell on July 19. If you start the clock on the day of Trump’s inauguration, the 200th would have been August 8. By the standard of either date, Republican control of Congress and the Presidency for the first time since 2006 has little to show in legislative gains.

During their press conference, Ryan and McConnell set the following expectations for this Republican Congress:

  • Repeal and replace legislation for Obamacare to President Trump by early April
  • A defense and border supplemental funding bill with $12 billion to $15 billion in new spending to fund his call to finish a border wall with Mexico by April
  • An infrastructure bill by early summer
  • A tax overhaul and revamp of the IRS by August

To this point, none of these items has been accomplished.

Obamacare Repeal

House Republicans struggled to pass even a partial repeal this Spring, and Senate Republicans failed to pass anything this August. Now, instead of repeal, Senate Republicans are working with Democrats to bail out Obamacare insurers and vowing to fight any move by President Trump to end illegal Obamacare subsidies for politicians and their staff.

Border Wall Funding

Republican leaders pledged to deliver in the supplemental appropriations bill an amount of $12-15 billion in funding to fulfill President Trump’s signature pledge to build a border wall between Mexico and the U.S. This was important to allow construction to begin immediately this year. However, when the supplemental bill was unveiled in April, not one dollar was included for the wall. And as part of 2018 appropriations bills, to this date only $1.6 billion has been set aside for a border wall in the House military spending bill, less than a tenth of what was promised in January.

Infrastructure Bill

While an infrastructure bill by early summer, Congressional leaders have now signaled it won’t be taken up until 2018.

Tax Reform

A tax overhaul and reform of IRS were promised by summer, but no progress has been made to date. After pushing for a controversial border adjusted tax as part of a large reform, leaders gave up on the plan in July. Republicans hope to pass a new budget with tax reconciliation rules in September, allowing the final tax measure to pass the Senate with 50 votes sometime In October or later. Yet to date, even the broad outlines for the possible tax measure have still not come together.

Veterans Choice Program

While leaders had hoped to pass an overhaul of the program this year, instead they settled for last minute infusion of additional funding to keep it from going broke before their summer break.

Pass 12 separate appropriations bills

For years, Republicans have called for a return to “regular order” on budget and spending, a reference to the fact that Congress usually waits until the end of the year to pass one giant spending bill to fund the entire federal government. Instead, Republicans have promised to pass separate appropriations bills for different federal roles. “One obvious step I would mention — it is not going to titillate the public — but one obvious step would be, for the first time since 1994, do all the appropriations bills,” McConnell said.

Instead, as noted by Matt Fuller of Huffington Post, Congress has already passed a large spending bill with four appropriations bills tied together and is unlikely to complete work on the remaining 8 bills on time:

Before they left for August break last week, the House was able to pass a so-called minibus ― a downsized omnibus bill that encompassed four of the 12 appropriations bills ― but that legislation is going nowhere in the Senate, and most lawmakers acknowledge that a regular appropriations process where Congress approves individual spending bills is hopeless. Instead, a continuing resolution simply pushing back the funding deadline seems like the best bet, with perhaps a few side deals to win over Democrats and some reluctant Republicans.