Top Republicans in the Congress head with President Donald Trump to Camp David on Friday for two days of meetings about the GOP agenda for this year, as the White House looks to build on legislative momentum from approval of a sweeping package of tax cuts at the end of 2017, and turn that into positive results in the House and Senate this year – as well as at the ballot box for the 2018 elections.
“Look, the President was elected because of his ambitious agenda and his desire to get a lot of things done,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters this week. “We're going to focus on that.”
Among the issues that have been mentioned prominently in recent weeks by the President and White House officials – welfare reform, funding for new roads and bridges, border security and more – but unlike last year when the top items were clearly health care and taxes, 2018 doesn’t have a headline GOP issue as of yet.
“A lot of the meetings that the President has this week with leadership will help determine what the best strategy is on each of those individual areas,” Sanders added.
Another major issue will be what happens in late 2018 – the November mid-term elections – which will test whether Republicans can keep control of the House and Senate.
Losing one – or both houses of Congress – could imperil the Trump agenda, much as the 2010 Tea Party wave altered the political calculus for President Barack Obama and Democrats.
One thing that’s obvious is that President Trump and Congressional Republicans will look to campaign hard on the tax cuts enacted into law in December, with the GOP arguing that it’s all part of an economic upswing spurred by Mr. Trump’s election.
“The historic tax cut I signed into law just two weeks ago before Christmas, is already delivering major economic gains,” the President said in a recorded video statement played to reporters in the White House briefing room on Thursday.
“Hundreds of thousands of us are seeing larger paychecks, bigger bonuses and higher pension contributions, and it’s all because of the tax cuts and the tax reform,” Mr. Trump added in his recorded statement.
“The President’s economic agenda of lower taxes, less regulation, and more opportunity for all is already paying off, and American families and workers are the big winners,” added Press Secretary Sanders.
That White House message is being echoed on Capitol Hill as well on a daily basis by Republicans.
“Despite the doom and gloom rhetoric from the Left and special-interest groups, millions of hardworking people are already seeing benefits,” Speaker Paul Ryan’s website proclaimed.
“Folks are skeptical about Washington in general right now and I get that, but it is real middle-class tax relief and it will affect people's bottom line, so I think that will be important,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on CNBC.
“And I am just amazed that my Democratic colleagues objected to it,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
Democrats still argue it was the wrong choice – the 2018 elections could well be seen as a referendum on that, and the first two years of the Trump Presidency.