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Reading Between the Lines: POTUS Strikes Deal with Dems


Editor’s Note: Sandra Swirski and Sara Barba of the Washington, D.C., advocacy firm Urban Swirski & Associates offer regular analysis of public policy developments of interest to Southern grantmakers – reading between the lines so you don’t have to.

September was shaping up to be a busy month in Washington, with a to-do list including disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey, a bill to fund the government after September and raising the debt ceiling – all even before Hurricane Irma began bearing down on Florida. But it seems President Trump temporarily checked some of those items off Republicans’ list on Wednesday when he made a short-term deal with Democratic congressional leaders to take care of all of the above for three months.

Keeping this deal in mind, here are some ways the next few months could play out.

Closing the Loop on Health Care

As recently as this week, President Trump urged lawmakers to give repealing the Affordable Care Act one last try. This followed the ruling of the Senate parliamentarian – essentially the rule-maker of the Senate – that the budgetary tool Republicans planned to use to repeal the health care law expires at the end of this month.

This gives Republicans a limited window to fulfill a major campaign promise they have been running on for years. It also sets a hard deadline to end the promise of Obamacare repeal and allows the administration and Congress to pivot to tax reform.

Frontloading the Agenda with Tax Reform

Republicans in Congress have largely been under the impression that they’d be in a budget/debt showdown for most of September, and that the finishing touches would go on tax reform later in the year. With the three-month deal made among Democrats and the president, however, Republicans’ September schedule just opened up – potentially to deal with tax reform sooner – and their December calendar is now packed with the punted budget and debt limit fight.

So, the wheels on tax reform could start moving sooner than we thought, which means our sector must grab a seat at the negotiating table while we can. Republicans view tax reform as a must-pass item in 2017, so scheduling constraints will force them to put pen to paper fast, and we can’t get lost in the shuffle. 

Heavy on the Bipartisan

The silver lining may be in who made the deal. You may recall from our post last week that President Trump indicated in a tax reform speech that he wanted the process to be bipartisan. But he was playing hardball then and encouraging voters to vote Democrats out of office who don’t support tax reform. 

Now he’s playing nice. The deal with Democratic leadership shows President Trump is more interested in getting wins than he is in staying within party lines.

Sandra Swirski is a partner at Urban Swirski & Associates; Sara Barba is assistant vice president at the firm.

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