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Trump to Face Towering Wall of Washington Reality in First 100 Days

  • Mary Alice Salinas

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to bring "big league" change to America, but his plans for his first 100 days in office are about to bump up against the realities of Washington politics and bureaucracy.

In October, he outlined a "100-day action plan to make America great again." In it, he listed a series of steps to bring "honesty, accountability and change to Washington."

The actions aim to protect American jobs, rid Washington of "corruption and special interest collusion" and restore law and order, he said.

However, the billionaire businessman who is accustomed to unilaterally making decisions and issuing orders, faces the same complex political considerations and lumbering government that have frustrated presidents before him.

FILE - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York, Jan. 11, 2017.

FILE - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York, Jan. 11, 2017.

"The American bureaucracy is a sluggish place," said John Hudak, the Brookings Institution's deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management and a senior fellow in governance studies.

Some actions Trump has promised to take during his first 100 days as president, such as rolling back regulations, may take years to carry out.

There is disagreement within his own party on other actions, such as his plan for massive spending on infrastructure to create jobs.

"That's not something that Republicans in Congress are going to want to spend significant amounts of money on without offsets," Hudak said.

Trump's promise to immediately repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare will face hurdles, even though there is bipartisan agreement on the need for reform.

FILE - Demonstrators denouncing Obamacare during a protest in Indianapolis, Indiana, Aug. 26, 2013.

FILE - Demonstrators denouncing Obamacare during a protest in Indianapolis, Indiana, Aug. 26, 2013.

"I think the battle over the Affordable Care Act will be intense," said James Thurber, American University professor of government and founder of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. He predicted legislation to repeal it will pass easily, but the replacement "will be difficult."

What Trump can do

On the other hand, Trump will be able to quickly undo steps previously taken with the use of presidential powers.

"On day one, he is able and has the power to reject the executive orders of Obama, and there are many that he wants to get rid of," Thurber said.

Trump has vowed to "cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama."

"I think that he is entirely within his lawful power to do so," Obama said during a December interview with National Public Radio. "If he wants to reverse some of those rules, that's part of the democratic process."

Such actions range from immigration restrictions and refugee admissions to ethics orders and tariffs.

Trump has vowed to immediately begin removing more than two million undocumented immigrants with criminal records. He also planned to swiftly suspend immigration from "terror-prone regions" where extreme vetting cannot occur.

FILE - People hold signs before marching to Trump Tower in a protest organized by the New York Immigration Coalition against President-elect Donald Trump in New York, Dec. 18, 2016.

FILE - People hold signs before marching to Trump Tower in a protest organized by the New York Immigration Coalition against President-elect Donald Trump in New York, Dec. 18, 2016.

Congress

Experts predict Trump will enjoy the customary "honeymoon" phase with Congress during his first months in office.

Top agenda items include repealing the Affordable Care Act, overhauling immigration and passing comprehensive tax reform. However, even with a Republican majority some of Trump's controversial proposals may run into trouble.

"He has a unified-party government, the same party controlling the House and Senate. Most presidents who have that get what they want," noted Thurber. But "Trump will have a bit more of a problem getting what he wants."

Trump's proposals on ethics reform have already hit roadblocks. Trump has called for term limits on members of Congress.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has apparently nixed the term limits idea. "I would say we have term limits now. They're called elections. And it will not be on the agenda in the Senate," declared the Republican senator.

"Democrats in Congress are going to annoy Trump. Republicans in Congress are going to be the true thorn in his side," Hudak said.

For example, some within Trump's party support trade, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has sharply criticized as a job-killer.

FILE - U.S. President Bill Clinton signs a side deal of the three-nation North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at the White House, Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 1993.

FILE - U.S. President Bill Clinton signs a side deal of the three-nation North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at the White House, Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 1993.

On day one, Trump said he will state his intention to renegotiate NAFTA. If the U.S. does not get a better deal, the U.S. will withdraw from it, he has warned.

As president, Trump will have the power to withdraw from NAFTA under Article 2205, which states he must simply provide six-months written notice of the intent to do so.

But it will be a politically messy proposition if Trump follows through on the threat.

When NAFTA went into effect in 1994, it eliminated nearly all tariffs on trade and made it easier for U.S. businesses to invest in Mexico. Supporters have argued that withdrawing from NAFTA will hurt American investors and consumers.

Softening positions?

Since outlining his 100-day plan of action, the president-elect has softened his stance on some campaign pledges, including massive spending on infrastructure and opposition to the Paris accord on climate change.

The "big, beautiful wall" he vowed to build along the southern border with Mexico during the campaign may be a fence in some areas, he has acknowledged.

He has seemingly changed position multiple times on his hardline campaign call for a complete and total shutdown on Muslim immigration.

His shifting rhetoric may signal a willingness to bend to the realities of governing in Washington. Still, Trump has remained unpredictable and continued to break with tradition and protocol. That has left many, domestically and internationally, puzzled and unsure about which actions he will actually take during his first 100 days at the White House.

After meeting with Trump in the Oval Office following his election victory, Obama described the real estate tycoon as "pragmatic."

Trump has simply said he has an "open mind."

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