If there’s one arena where President Donald Trump’s agenda has had a rough encounter with reality, it’s Capitol Hill.
A couple of weeks before Election Day, Trump unveiled his Contract with the American Voter. In it, he listed 10 bills.
"I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my administration," Trump wrote.
He didn’t promise passage, but he did aim to get all 10 on the docket.
In a recent interview, Trump put some daylight between himself and this list.
"Somebody put out the concept of a hundred-day plan," he told the Associated Press.
So far, the only bill to appear has been the one to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. That measure failed to make it out of the House of Representatives and its prospects remain cloudy.
Even though Trump said recently "the plan gets better and better and better, and it’s gotten really, really good," negotiations in the House have yet to bear fruit.
The administration is taking some steps on tax reform.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic director Gary Cohn spelled out the broad outlines of a White House proposal on April 26. The nominal corporate tax rate would fall from 35 percent to 15 percent. The standard deduction for households would double and the number of tax brackets would fall from seven to three. The plan is not yet actual legislation.
So with that, the list of the other bills waiting in the wings includes:
• Infrastructure "to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over ten years."
• School choice "to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice."
• Illegal immigration that "fully funds the construction of a wall on our southern border."
• Increase military spending "by eliminating the defense sequester."
• Reduce offshoring with tariffs "to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries."
• Affordable childcare and eldercare that "allows Americans to deduct childcare and eldercare from their taxes."
• Community safety by "creating a task force on violent crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police."
• Clean up Washington with "new ethics reforms to drain the swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics." (Trump closed the door on executive branch staffers lobbying until five years have passed, but Congress has not followed suit.)
It can be a heavy lift for any new president to get Congress to do his bidding. Trump has the nominal advantage of a Senate and House under his party’s control, but recent events suggest this is unity in name only.
"This is an historically ideologically diverse Republican party -- especially in the House," said George Washington University political scientist Sarah Binder. "Those cleavages have stymied both Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan in the past, and now, even with control of the White House, have stopped legislative coalitions in their tracks."
Binder said Trump’s plans for Capitol Hill hit two other speed bumps: His low approval numbers, hovering around 40 percent, were unable to calm jittery congressmen seeking political cover. And too many in Trump’s inner circle had little understanding "of how Congress works."
Trump supporter Steven Goddu, owner of a printing shop in Salem, N.H., largely agreed with that last point but puts it another way.
"He probably was surprised by the resistance he got from the Washington swamp," Goddu said. "As a businessman, he’s used to being the dictator. He says something and it gets done. In politics, he over-promised what he could do."
Originally, Goddu backed Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for president and he still has a Cruz sticker on his car. But he’s behind Trump now and satisfied with what he’s seen.
"The president is still trying and we’re moving in the right direction," Goddu said.
Executive order pivots
Arguably, Trump could only expect so much from Congress. But on immigration enforcement, he held all the cards.
He promised to immediately rescind two Obama-era executive orders, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Both put deportation on hold for undocumented immigrants who met certain conditions. The first one got tangled up in court and was never implemented.
The second, DACA, provided legal cover to more than 720,000 young adults who were brought to America when they were little.
Trump could have swept both away with a stroke of the pen. He did not. Regarding young adults, Trump said in an interview with the Associated Press that they "should rest easy." His focus is not on them, but on criminals.
Mark Krikorian, head of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that seeks strict enforcement of immigration, told us the failure to cancel DACA is "the administration's big black mark on immigration."
Krikorian said he’s particularly distressed that the administration is still issuing new work permits under the DACA program.
"Dealing with the DACAs (people registered under the program) created by Obama's illegal policy is one thing, but creating new DACAs is beyond the pale," Krikorian said.
Trump has stepped up deportation actions, but as far as this particular promise goes, so far he has changed his plans.
In contrast, it was the courts that thwarted Trump in his effort to suspend immigration from terror-prone places.
Court rulings blocked both his first and second executive orders that targeted people who came from or had spent time in six predominantly Muslim countries. The legal battle continues, but to date, Trump has not been able to deliver.
The courts struck again with a temporary injunction, blocking Trump’s executive order to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities. We rated Trump’s promise to stop the flow of taxpayer dollars to those local governments Stalled.
During the campaign, he also vowed to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country. Trump has said his executive orders aimed at certain countries are not a ban on Muslims. In that light, the administration has not followed through on this promise.
Trump also reversed course on labeling China a currency manipulator. In mid April, the Treasury Department didn’t. Trump gave two reasons: China isn’t manipulating its currency now, and he wants China’s help in dealing with North Korea.
Second thoughts on legal action?
Among the other commitments that Trump has not kept, one has to do with the many women who accused him of sexual misconduct.
During the campaign, he said he would sue his accusers. He hasn’t, so we rated his lack of action as Promise Broken.
In a similar vein, so far he hasn’t appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton.
This promise sure looks on the path toward becoming broken, but we'll give Trump a little more time to see if anything materializes. For now, we rate this promise Stalled.
We’ll continue to monitor Trump’s actions and how they reflect his campaign promises. Take a look at all the promises we’re tracking.
Trump for President, Contract with the American Voter, Oct. 23, 2016
Fox News, Fox and Friends, April 18, 2017
Financial Times, US Treasury passes up on branding China a currency manipulator, April 14, 2017
Associated Press, Transcript of AP interview with Trump, April 21, 2017
Fox News, Fox News Sunday, April 23, 2017
Interview, Steven Goddu, owner Goddu Printing, April 23, 2017
Email interview, Sarah Binder, professor of political science, George Washington University, April 21, 2017
Email interview, Mark Krikorian, executive director, Center for Immigration Studies, April 25, 2017