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Five fights for Trump’s first year

Congress is facing a string of deadlines that set up a number of fights for the rest of President Trump’s first year in office.

Here are five of the biggest.

Preventing a shutdown

When lawmakers return on Washington from a two-week recess, they’ll have just five days to pass a funding measure to prevent the government from shutting down on April 29.

Lawmakers are locked in talks, with GOP leaders eager to show they can govern pledging to avoid a shutdown just 100 days into the Trump administration.

Democrats are demanding that ObamaCare payments to insurers be included in the bill after Trump floated canceling them in order to force a negotiation on healthcare reform.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerFive fights for Trump’s first year So what if banks push fancy cards? Give consumers the steak they want Ted Cruz: Warren could beat Trump in 2020 MORE (D-N.Y.) downplayed the chances of a shutdown.

“Negotiations seem to be going quite well, and I’m very hopeful we can come to an agreement that everyone can be proud of,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Another potential hurdle are demands from the administration.

Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney is seeking funds for a border wall in the bill. There is also talk of cutting funds to sanctuary cities. Both measures will ensure defections from Democrats, whose votes likely will be needed in both the House and Senate.

Lawmakers could pass a one-week stopgap bill if they need more time to wrap up the talks.

Another roadblock? Trump will hit the 100-day mark on Saturday, and the White House is signaling he wants some accomplishments.

That is one reason that Republicans are seeking to revive an ObamaCare repeal bill that seemed dead a few weeks ago.

There is now talk of a vote on that legislation when Congress is back, though it’s far from clear an agreement can be reached that would win enough votes for a package to get through the House, let alone the Senate.

Debt ceiling

Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling this year for the first time since 2015.

Mulvaney predicted a vote is likely in September, and also signaled the administration wants to link it to another fight: reforming Medicare and Social Security.

“We’re going to have to do it as part and parcel of a larger thing to try and solve and resolve some of our debt problems,” he told CNBC.

Asked if was referring to entitlement reform, Mulvaney added: “It may. There’s a lot of entitlement reform other than just how old do you have to be to get your Social Security benefits.”

Trump pledged during the campaign that he wouldn’t cut Social Security or Medicare, touting himself as “the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.”

A group of Senate Republicans also introduced legislation that would require increases in the debt ceiling to be offset by dollar-for-dollar spending cuts.

Tax reform

Trump and Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanFive fights for Trump’s first year Sunday shows preview: Trump stares down 100-day mark Ryan: Focus is on keeping government open, not healthcare MORE (R-Wis.) both want to do tax reform, but the effort seems to be in trouble.

The timeline of passing legislation by August has slipped, with Republicans divided over Ryan’s call for a border adjustment tax that would reduce taxes on exports while putting a new tax on imports.

Officials still say legislation could move this year, and several trial balloons have been floated as they seek to find a bill that could pass muster in Congress.

Trump has floated combining tax reform with an infrastructure package, which might win Democratic votes even if it loses some GOP votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellFive fights for Trump’s first year Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road AACR’s march on Washington MORE (R-Ky.), however, said he expects that Congress would approve an infrastructure package separately from tax reform.

The polarized climate and Trump’s low approval ratings could make getting cooperation from Democrats more difficult, even as it also makes it tougher to get GOP allies to bend.

Defense

The Senate and House both are expected to pass legislation setting out Trump’s defense and foreign policy goals by August.

A House GOP timetable of 2017 deadlines leaked earlier this year sought passage of the defense bill by June, which would give staff  time to negotiate a deal to merge the separate House and Senate versions of the bill while lawmakers are out town for the August recess, setting up final passage for the fall.

The annual defense bill normally gets bipartisan support, but it’s status as must-pass legislation also makes it a policy lightning rod. The Obama administration routinely threatened to veto the legislation.

Senators submitted hundreds of amendments to last year’s bill including a fight over requiring women to sign up for the draft and transfers from the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

In addition to likely amendments on Trump’s strategy in Syria and Yemen, the authorization bill frequently serves as a proxy fight over defense spending.

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainFive fights for Trump’s first year Trump wall faces skepticism on border No Congress members along Mexico border support funding Trump’s wall MORE (R-Ariz.)—who spearheads the Senate’s bill—released a blueprint earlier this year calling for a $640 billion base budget for defense spending in fiscal year 2018, $54 billion above the Obama administration’s projections.

Surveillance

A constant drip of reports on incidental surveillance of the Trump transition team has put Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)—scheduled to expire at the end of the year— in the center of a political firestorm.

The provision allows intelligence agencies to monitor communications of foreign officials overseas, but it can also incidentally sweep up the communications of U.S. citizens and be used to start a criminal proceeding.

Privacy-minded Republicans are sending early signals that they want to reform 702 on the floor. Progressive Democrats who have also raised questions about the surveillance program for years.

Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenFive fights for Trump’s first year Wyden pushing to mandate ‘basic cybersecurity’ for Senate Consumer groups blast DHS head for seeking travelers’ social media passwords MORE (D-Ore.) pushed for a public accounting of how many Americans have been swept up under 702 from the Senate floor earlier this year.

“Hopefully my Republican colleagues are now going to finally take this issue seriously,” he told The Intercept in a recent interview. “And there will be bipartisan support for the kinds of reforms that I’m seeking.”

Experts say it’s unlikely that former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador were captured under 702, but supporters of the provision are preparing for a fight.

A group of House lawmakers asked the intelligence community to publicly dispel any inaccurate reports on surveillance, warning that “many members of Congress are distrustful of these capabilities.”

 

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