The 115th Congress was sworn in on January 3 and is already hard at work changing its reputation from “do nothing” to “do something” to possibly even “do a lot.”  For the GOP leadership, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), this is the opportunity to tackle its top policy priority of repealing and replacing Obamacare along with rolling back federal regulations, increasing infrastructure projects and making inroads on fundamental tax reform. 

For his part, President-elect Donald Trump laid out a simplified agenda for the first 100 days of his administration in a video posted before Thanksgiving. In it, he reiterated campaign pledges to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, cancel environmental regulations, establish a cyber-review panel and investigate visa programs that could favor foreign workers over American workers, spelling trouble for efforts to expand the H1-B visa program.

Obamacare Repeal: Senator McConnell has pledged that the first vote in the new Congress will begin dismantling the Affordable Care Act. The plan is to use budget reconciliation to strip away major provisions of Obamacare. Through reconciliation, items in the ACA that have a direct impact on the federal budget can be passed with a simple majority in the Senate rather than the 60 votes necessary for most legislation to overcome a filibuster. That wouldn’t amount to full repeal of the ACA, but would start the process. A quick, complete repeal even with the GOP majority is doubtful until an alternative is drafted to replace current law.

Cabinet Nominees: Another top Senate priority is confirming the president-elect’s cabinet nominees. A few face stiff opposition. One of the most important picks is particularly controversial, secretary of state nominee Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, based on his ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Manufacturing appointees

National Trade Council: Harvard Economist Peter Navarro will lead the White House National Trade Council (NTC), advising the president on trade matters with a focus on reviving U.S. manufacturing. Like Mr. Trump, Navarro is a harsh critic of China. The NTC’s mission will be to lead the “Buy America, Hire America” program to ensure the president-elect’s promise of restoring lost manufacturing jobs is fulfilled in government procurement and projects ranging from infrastructure to national defense.

Among the NTC’s  tasks will be to develop innovative strategies in trade negotiations, coordinate with other agencies to assess U.S. manufacturing capabilities and the defense industrial base, and help match unemployed American workers with new opportunities in the skilled manufacturing sector. 

American Manufacturing Council: Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris will head up the Commerce Department’s American Manufacturing Council, a group of industry leaders that acts as the liaison between the manufacturing sector and the federal government. Liveris served as co-chair of President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership steering committee. AMP’s recommendations led to the establishment of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, now known as Manufacturing USA. 

In the Trump administration, Liveris will be tasked with finding ways to bring industry back to America. His approach will be a comprehensive strategy to revive investment by leveling the global playing field through changes in tax, regulation, energy, infrastructure and innovation policy. 

There are still many unknowns regarding the new administration’s agenda and timeline. AMT’s public policy agenda supports legislation and initiatives that boost innovation, increase global competitiveness and build a workforce to meet the demands of the 21st century manufacturing workplace. 

Please get in touch with me at athomas@AMTonline.org with comments and/or questions on the new administration/congress and their probable impact on manufacturing issues.