GOP pledges fast ac­tion on Trump’s agenda

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - WEATHER -

Elated con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans pledged swift ac­tion Wed­nes­day on Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s agenda as they her­alded an ex­tra­or­di­nary new era of uni­fied GOP con­trol in Wash­ing­ton.

“He just earned a man­date,” House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis­con­sin de­clared of Trump. “We are go­ing to hit the ground run­ning.”

Said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky: “We would like to see the coun­try go in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion and in­tend to work with him to change the course for Amer­ica.”

Repub­li­cans saw their ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate re­duced, but not by much, as Democrats’ hopes of re­tak­ing Se­nate con­trol van­ished. And though Ryan and McCon­nell both had well-pub­li­cized reser­va­tions about Trump, both were quick to de­clare that the newly elected pres­i­dent de­served the credit.

“Don­ald Trump pulled off an amaz­ing po­lit­i­cal feat. He de­serves tremen­dous credit for that,” said Ryan, who ini­tially re­fused to en­dorse Trump and only last month de­clared he’d no longer de­fend him. “It helped us keep our ma­jori­ties, but it also showed the coun­try that peo­ple don’t like the di­rec­tion we were go­ing.”

First up would be re­peal­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, some­thing Repub­li­cans have al­ready shown they can get through Congress with just a nar­row Se­nate ma­jor­ity. What they haven’t done is unite around a plan for en­sur­ing that the 20 mil­lion peo­ple who achieved health care cov­er­age un­der the land­mark law don’t lose it.

Repub­li­cans also cel­e­brated the op­por­tu­nity to fill the ex­ist­ing Supreme Court va­cancy, and po­ten­tially more to come, with “con­sti­tu­tional con­ser­va­tives.” McCon­nell was be­ing widely praised for his strat­egy, once seen as risky, of re­fus­ing to act on Obama’s nom­i­nee to re­place Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia, who died last Fe­bru­ary.

And Repub­li­cans pledged to try to un­wind any num­ber of ex­ec­u­tive moves by Obama, in­clud­ing tougher clean air rules on power plants, looser re­stric­tions on travel to Cuba, and tougher rules on sleep for long-haul truck­ers, among oth­ers — “Ev­ery sin­gle one that’s suck­ing the very life out of our econ­omy,” GOP Sen. David Per­due of Ge­or­gia said in an in­ter­view.

That threat­ened to wipe away key ar­eas of progress high­lighted by Democrats un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Some of Trump’s goals could be harder to achieve. A wall on the south­ern bor­der is es­ti­mated to cost $10 bil­lion to $20 bil­lion, money that Congress may be un­likely to pro­vide given that co­op­er­a­tion from Democrats would be nec­es­sary.

In­deed the Se­nate Demo­cratic minority stood as the only leg­isla­tive bar­rier to Trump’s goals, since 60 votes are re­quired for most con­se­quen­tial moves in the Se­nate.

Repub­li­cans were poised to end up with 52 Se­nate seats af­ter Sen. Kelly Ay­otte, R-N.H., con­ceded to Demo­cratic Gov. Mag­gie Has­san in their close race. That as­sumes the GOP wins a De­cem­ber runoff in Louisiana, as ex­pected. Democrats man­aged to pick up only one other GOP-held Se­nate seat, in Illi­nois, a dev­as­tat­ing out­come for a party that went into Elec­tion Day with high hopes of hold­ing the White House and win­ning back Se­nate con­trol.

In the House, Repub­li­cans were on track to lose a max­i­mum of nine seats, an un­ex­pect­edly mod­est re­duc­tion to a wide GOP ma­jor­ity that now stands at 247-188, in­clud­ing three va­cant seats.

“We kicked their tails last night,” said GOP Rep. Greg Walden of Ore­gon, head of the Repub­li­cans’ House cam­paign com­mit­tee.

Trump’s ex­tra­or­di­nary win ap­peared to be go­ing far to heal di­vi­sions within the GOP, as even Repub­li­cans who’d long har­bored doubts about him of­fered warm pledges of sup­port.

Here and there, notes of cau­tion were sounded, as a few Repub­li­cans made clear that Congress would be as­sert­ing its con­sti­tu­tional pre­rog­a­tives as a check and bal­ance on the ex­ec­u­tive, fol­low­ing what Repub­li­cans viewed as overly ex­pan­sive use of ex­ec­u­tive power by Obama.

“It’s just our con­sti­tu­tional duty to keep the ex­ec­u­tive branch in check,” GOP Rep. Todd Young, the newly elected Repub­li­can sen­a­tor in In­di­ana, told re­porters in In­di­anapo­lis.

Yet McCon­nell ap­peared to in­vite ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion by Trump, sug­gest­ing he should be ex­plor­ing what kinds of “uni­lat­eral ac­tion” he could take to undo uni­lat­eral ac­tions by Obama.

ALEX BRAN­DON — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton,

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