Last year, following Donald Trump’s historic and unexpected election to the presidency, I put together a conservative Christmas 2017 policy wish-list. With full control of Congress and the White House, Republicans were in a unique position to implement the conservative agenda following the disastrous presidency of Barack Obama.
One year later, President Trump and the Republicans can claim several promises fulfilled, but too many are left unfinished. The Republicans still have one year to deliver on their campaign promises before the 2018 midterm elections. Failure to do so may sweep them out of power.
Which promises were kept? Which are still waiting? Let’s review.
Full repeal of Obamacare
Though Republicans considered several versions of health care reform legislation, they never attempted to pass a true full repeal of Obamacare. The core elements of Obamacare have become enshrined by the Republican Congress. The regulations, spending, mandates, and cost-sharing subsidies have become an untouchable third rail in American politics, as Obamacare has gone the way of other entitlement programs.
For now, the only meaningful action Republicans have taken to even partially repeal Obamacare is the inclusion of a provision to reduce the individual mandate penalty to zero, essentially eliminating the individual mandate.
Though Americans will no longer be forced to buy insurance plans they cannot afford, premiums are still set to increase, insurance markets still face a death spiral, and insurance companies continue to demand bailouts from the federal government as they are crushed by the weight of the Obamacare system.
The promise to repeal Obamacare was not kept. Health care remains the most important domestic policy challenge facing this country, and the American people should demand that Congress take up true health care reform immediately.
Border security and the wall
Though the federal government has built several prototypes for a border wall during the Trump administration, actual construction on the oft-promised wall has not begun. The White House Office of Management and Budget recently told the Department of Homeland Security to adjust its projected spending for the 2019 fiscal year to $1.6 billion to fund construction of the wall.
This funding needs to come from Congress. There is a Dec. 22 deadline for the legislature to agree on a spending bill for the next year, and the status of funding for the wall remains in question. President Trump has previously suggested that a government shutdown may be necessary if Democrats refuse to vote for a spending bill that includes wall funding, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly insisted that a shutdown is out of the question.
Congress has failed to pass funding for the wall. President Trump must draw a red line in the spending bill and be willing to fulfill his pledge to shut down the government, if necessary, to build that wall.
Government lobbying ban
On the campaign trail, President Trump promised to help “drain the Swamp” by issuing an executive order to create a five-year lobbying ban for former administration officials after they leave the White House or Congress. Trump also pledged to create a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.
In one of his first acts as president last January, President Trump signed an executive order putting these lobbying bans into effect. This promise was kept.
The House of Representatives voted to repeal the “Obamacare of financial markets” with a party-line vote back in June. Besides creating a massive and costly regulatory regime, Dodd-Frank created the unconstitutional Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is estimated to have a $1 trillion negative impact on the American economy.
The U.S. Senate killed the House bill. A new bipartisan agreement to roll back some aspects of Dodd-Frank was introduced, but this compromise legislation keeps many regulations and only partially repeals the unconstitutional CFPB. President Trump stands ready to sign repeal legislation … if only Congress would send him a bill. So far, they haven’t.
Nominate a pro-life justice to the Supreme Court
President Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court received nearly universal acclaim from conservatives. Gorsuch is pro-life, and this promise was kept.
Pain-capable abortion ban
The federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation has passed the House of Representatives. Mitch McConnell claims the bill is supported by “virtually all” Republicans in the Senate, but he has not yet announced a date for the vote.
President Trump has formally backed this legislation, but the promise is not kept until he signs the bill.
Defund Planned Parenthood and make the Hyde Amendment permanent
Language to defund Planned Parenthood for one year was included in some versions of Obamacare partial repeal, but since those bills failed, there has been no congressional action on defunding Planned Parenthood. As Congress considers legislation to bail out health insurance companies, the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, has warned that it would oppose any effort that includes Obamacare insurer payments that aren’t protected by the Hyde Amendment. The amendment is a spending requirement that prevents federal funding from going toward abortions.
So far, Congress has refused to defund Planned Parenthood and permanently extend the Hyde Amendment.
First Amendment Defense Act
A federal version of laws designed to protect religious liberty by preventing the government from penalizing Americans for affirming that marriage is only the union between a man and a woman has been introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in the Senate and by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, in the House.
The president supports this legislation. “If Congress considers the First Amendment Defense Act a priority, then I will do all I can to make sure it comes to my desk for signatures and enactment,” Trump wrote in a letter last year.
Congress hasn’t moved on it.
Fix the Fed
So far in this presidency, President Trump seems to be intent on keeping the status quo for the Federal Reserve. Trump recently nominated Jerome Powell to be the next chairman of the Fed when Janet Yellen’s term expires in February. Powell is an uncontroversial pick for the powerful institution that controls monetary policy in the United States — and thus has influence on global markets.
Conservatives and libertarians who subscribe to the Austrian school of economics believe that the Federal Reserve is largely responsible for artificially creating booms and busts via false market signals. The Fed’s control over interest rates is a powerful tool, and its misuse can have disastrous consequences such as inflation, which reduces the purchasing power of your dollars. At other times, the Fed artificially keeps the interest rate too low, which can cause serious inflationary consequences down the line.
Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., has introduced legislation to audit the Fed to ensure accountability, but Trump’s nominee Powell has previously criticized this legislation, arguing that congressional policy audits are “misguided” and would submit the independent federal reserve to political pressure, which could exacerbate financial crises.
President Trump made a campaign promise to audit the Fed, and in 2015 he expressed a desire to abandon fiat currency and go back to a gold standard. Yet for the time being, the Trump administration is missing a great opportunity to make good on this campaign promise.
The Republicans in Congress have put together a tax reform plan that, while short of a fundamental restructuring of the American tax system, will give most Americans a solid tax cut and give American businesses a huge competitive edge. After several weeks of drama, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed the bill, and President Trump will sign tax reform into law before the year ends.
Even the Left is being forced to admit that 80 percent of Americans are getting a tax cut under the Republican plan and the average tax cut will be $1,600. The tax cuts kick in in February.
Scrap Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders (DACA to start)
In September, President Trump cancelled Obama’s illegal DACA order granting amnesty to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. In doing so, the president announced a six-month delay in the enforcement of his new policy to give Congress time to develop a legislative solution for so-called “Dreamers.”
Strictly speaking, the president kept his promise to repeal the unconstitutional executive order. But his championing of Congress to pass legal DACA amnesty betrays the spirit of his America First campaign by prioritizing the needs of illegal immigrants before Congress has acted to secure the border, build a wall, and tighten enforcement of our immigration laws so that America is benefited by the immigrants who come here.
Repeal the EPA “Waters of the United States” rule
President Trump promised to rescind the unbelievably tyrannical Obama-era regulation that put the federal government in control of the puddle in your back yard.
In June, the Environmental Protection Agency formally began the process of repealing the “waters of the United States” rule and replacing it with a more limited regulation. This promise was kept.
National Right to Carry
President Trump was a strong advocate for the Second Amendment on the campaign trail and remains so in office.
“A driver’s license works in every state, so it’s common sense that a concealed carry permit should work in every state. If we can do that for driving — which is a privilege, not a right — then surely we can do that for concealed carry, which is a right, not a privilege,” Trump said.
The House of Representatives recently passed “The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 8),” but CR’s Daniel Horowitz was one of few to sound the alarm on hidden gun control legislation attached to the bill. Horowitz notes that there is no commitment from the U.S. Senate to pass the concealed carry reciprocity portion of the legislation, while Republican leaders are prioritizing the gun control bill.
Almost every Republican in Congress claims to be pro-gun rights, but their actions don’t agree.
The first year of Trump’s presidency is drawing to a close, and the Republicans in Congress have demonstrated there is still far too much work to do to pass a conservative agenda. At this rate, it will be a miracle if Congress can achieve these remaining goals by the end of Trump’s presidency, let alone by next Christmas.
Author: Chris Pandolfo
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.