The election of Donald Trump to be the next President has created a jumbled, frenzied, uncertain and speculative political environment. Mr. Trump was the unexpected winner, a vast majority of political professionals, pundits, pollsters, party officials, elected officials, media were surprised with the results and there is a residual vocal opposition to him. We will leave the reason for the results to another time because the only thing that is sure is Mr. Trump will be come President on January 20, and that at least, at first, there will be a lot of new faces in town with the intent of making big changes.
Mr. Trump is difficult to characterize. His campaign was short on policy details and often times contradictory. More prone to broad themes and pronouncements, specific future actions by the new Administration can only generally be cautiously anticipated. The parade of people coming to pay homage to Mr. Trump in New York meets his style of high profile attention, twitter blurts and continuing campaign style rallies. It seems more impulsive than planned. The real action will come later when it actually means something. All that being said, the announcement of cabinet positions and other close advisors has a definite conservative bent and contra to the direction and policies of Mr. Obama.
To counterbalance all the attention and speculation given to the coming Administration, the other thing we also know as a certainty is that Republicans will control the Congress. It is enormously significant and an achievement for the GOP who many thought would lose control of the Senate.
Control does not mean domination but it does mean setting the agenda, floor consideration, hearing schedules and with the bone-head move by the Democrats several years ago regarding changing the filibuster rule, it means almost carte blanche authority to the ruling party on nominations.
While the interests and positions of the Administration come into view, the interests of many Congressional members and their issues are well known. The new Administration will have its own ideas and a great deal of influence but we would expect (particularly the House leadership) to push and direct to the issues of interest to them, many which have failed to advance due to split government. The question here is who is going to be pushed and who is going to be pulled?
Issues that garnered attention during the campaign and expected to be addressed in some fashion include the Affordable Health Care Act (cost and access to health care) immigration (past and present), taxes (level and structure), international trade agreements (NAFTA and others), new spending (infrastructure) and Federal regulations (about everything). Let’s take a look at the last two.
If there is an area where there may be bi-partisan support, it is in the area of national infrastructure, although no one is quite sure what that really means or how it is to be funded over what period. However, improving infrastructure was a major issue for both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. The issue to be determined is scope and how to fund new activity. (New spending, tax incentives, public or private) This will be a joint matter between Congress and the Administration where everyone gets their goodies and pet project. This issue is perhaps linked to tax reform to generate new revenues, perhaps not. The structure of any program could have a significant effect on the aluminum market.
Republicans have been campaigning on the mantra of eliminating “job killing” “burdensome” government regulations for years. Now is their chance to address their outrage and we would expect considerable action here. Mr. Trump is known for his disfavor of rules and regs and has asked his transition team to put together a list of actions he could take on the first day in office. In addition, members on the Hill have their own targets, (the list is over 200 now), as do various business and interest groups.
First in line are the recent actions taken by Mr. Obama and his bureaucracy. Congress will also be involved in trying to reverse, defund or otherwise rendering moot deemed objectionable provisions. This is not always an easy task because of the Administrative Procedures Act and possible litigation but with a concerted effort, we would expect considerable rollback in many areas, including labor rules, climate, environment and public lands. It is indeed a long list and the Choir director is preaching to the choir now.
As time goes on, the intent of the new Administration will clear up. However, it should be noted Mr. Trump is not an ideologue-left or right. Trends and issues will come and go and his non-experience in government and public policy plus personality makes it all unpredictable.