President Donald Trump’s term will consist of four years of policy conflicting with Republicans and Democrats alike, including the renegotiation of free trade agreements, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the building of a border wall, according to Georgetown professors interviewed by The Hoya.
Government professor Michele Swers, whose research focuses on Congress and the role of women in politics, said Trump is poised to clash with Republican leadership in Congress on his stated positions on trade, which contradict typical free trade-oriented Republican policies.
Trump pledged throughout his campaign to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement — a trade deal ratified in 1994 between the United States, Canada and Mexico — and to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement including 12 Pacific Rim countries, the United States and Canada.
“In the past, Republicans have been the more free trade party. [Speaker of the House] Paul Ryan [R-Wis.] has already stated that he’s opposed to placing additional tariffs on our country,” Swers said. “He’s very much a supporter of free trade and trade deals. And so there is going to be some conflict between Trump and some of the free trade Republicans in the House over plans that he has, and I think that he’ll have a difficult time getting tariffs, additional sort of taxes.”
In an interview with The Hoya, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the McCourt School of Public Policy Mark Rom, whose research focuses on social welfare policy, said Republicans in Congress may also be skeptical of Trump’s campaign proposal to guarantee six paid weeks of maternity leave for new mothers.
“This is not a typical Republican proposal. This is typically a Democratic proposal. This is a big thing for the Republicans,” Rom said. “I don’t think Congress wants to give him that. Congress doesn’t want to create a national policy of paid maternity child leave.”
However, Rom said he doubts maternity leave is one of Trump’s highest priorities, saying the proposal was primarily inspired by his daughter Ivanka, not Trump himself.
“Mainly it’s coming through Ivanka’s mouth,” Rom said of the policy. “She’s important, so I think it’s probably on his list of things to do, but probably not at the top of the list.”
On health care policy, Rom said the Republican Congress and Trump are unified in their resolve to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. He said that the lack of a replacement plan from the Trump transition team leaves an open question.
“He keeps saying he has a plan and that plan will be revealed soon, but in fact, that plan has not been revealed,” Rom said. “It’s a concept, and the concept is everybody will be covered, it will be great, it won’t cost very much and everybody will have great care. That’s not a plan. That’s nirvana. Until he tells us exactly how he plans to attain nirvana, then we don’t know what he’s really going to do.”
A Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday said 18 million Americans could lose health insurance if certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, which subsidizes insurance for many Americans, were to be repealed without a replacement.
Dean of Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies Patricia Ann Cloonan said she hopes the benefits of the ACA will continue, regardless of the Republican Congress.
“The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage for millions of people and emphasized the importance of health care providers collaborating with the communities they serve in the delivery of care. More insured individuals and more community engagement are two very good things that I hope will continue,” Cloonan said.
Trump made increasing restrictions on immigration a focal point of his campaign. He called for a full ban on Muslim immigration in December 2015, before beginning to walk back the policy in May 2016. Swers said she expects Trump’s pick for Attorney General Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to help implement a hardline stance on immigration.
“Trump has made immigration a priority issue that he’s talked about a lot,” Swers said. “By appointing Jeff Sessions, who’s also very hard-line on immigration, very law and order, I would expect that they’re going to go after things like sanctuary cities, look to step up deportations. We know that they’re already looking as a way to build his border wall, so that they’ll be focused on those things.”
Swers added that the long-promised border wall between the United States and Mexico looks likely and may not even require any new Congressional action to be built. However, she said it would likely be paid for by U.S. tax dollars first, which contradicts with Trump’s frequent campaign promises that Mexico would pay for the wall. Trump said Jan. 6 that he would ask Congress to pay for the wall, with Mexico paying back the United States at a later date.
Building the wall could cost up to $25 billion, according to The Washington Post. “Right now they’re saying that they’re going to use legislation that had already been passed in previous Congresses related to border security, and then you’re just looking to get funding for the appropriations process,” Swers said. “So that means that we would be paying for it and not Mexico right now.”
Associate government professor Matthew Kroenig, who specializes in international relations and was a foreign policy advisor for former Republican Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), said Trump will take an aggressive foreign policy approach to China, contrasting that of outgoing President Barack Obama. Obama’s foreign policy has been marked by a focus on Asia, including the negotiation of the TPP and the United States’ participation in the regional East Asia Summit.
“Trump has indicated that he plans a tougher approach to China, look[s] to strengthen relations with Taiwan and promise[s] to push back against China’s illegal island building campaign in the South China Sea,” Kroenig wrote in an email to The Hoya. “A move in this direction would be welcome as the Obama administration’s soft approach has allowed Beijing to use coercion to take contested territory from U.S. treaty allies and challenge the rules-based order in Asia.”
Kroenig also said he expects Trump to pursue a friendlier relationship with Russia, but added that this relationship should not preclude holding Russia accountable for the nation’s apparent interference in the presidential election. The Office of the Director on National Intelligence released a report Jan. 6 detailing a Russian campaign to influence the United States election in Trump’s favor.
“Improved relations with Russia is a priority for Trump,” Kroenig said. “There is no doubt that a better relationship with Russia is desirable, but we must also be clear-eyed about the threat Moscow poses and realize that much of the blame for the recent downturn in relations falls squarely on [Vladimir] Putin’s shoulders.”