CHEYENNE – The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce got an update on the state of play in Washington, D.C., on Friday, courtesy of John “J.R.” Reskovac, a lobbyist who works on the Chamber’s behalf.
Reskovac spoke at Friday’s monthly Chamber luncheon, where he discussed some of the early moves the Trump administration has been making, and how they may play out for the local business and military community.
He noted that Trump would be heading to his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort Friday, but not before first signing an executive order designed to weaken the Dodd-Frank Act, a set of Obama-era financial regulations passed after the 2008 housing crisis and market collapse. The announcement drew cheers from the audience at Friday’s luncheon.
Reskovac also spoke to Trump’s idea for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, noting that airport executives, concrete and asphalt companies and others are already paying close attention to the idea. He noted that it’s not yet clear how such a large stimulus might be funded, but ideas are being considered, including billions in potential tax incentives.
“The Republican Congress thinks they have about two years to get everything done that they want to get done,” Reskovac said, noting that includes repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and reforming the U.S. tax structure.
“There’s been some talk about tax reform, but my best guess is that’s probably not going to happen this year,” he said. “Even when we get to a border tax (an import tax to pay for a wall on the Mexican border), there’s now disagreement between the Senate and House Republicans.”
On ACA repeal, Reskovac said Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso has been taking a lead role in pressing for the idea, as well as what would replace former President Obama’s signature health-care legislation.
“They’re in the process of discussing repeal and a step-by-step replacement,” Reskovac said. “Statutory law is kind of hard to deconstruct, and it’s going to take a while, and in tranches, for this to occur.”
As far as what to expect of Trump’s broader long-term policy strokes, Reskovac said he expects those to come out on Feb. 28, when Trump will address a joint session of Congress.
“We will find out what his pragmatic priorities will be on turning the nation around,” he said. “And coupled with that, the federal government is still working under a continuing resolution (for federal spending) passed last fall. There’s some hope that Congress, before April 28, will come up with an omnibus spending bill, plus a simple extension of the debt limit.”
With regard to revenues, Reskovac said he doesn’t expect Wyoming’s other Republican senator, Mike Enzi, to make any headway in the House of Representatives on approving his Marketplace Fairness Act, which seeks to make it easier for states to collect sales taxes from internet-only retailers.
“Some states don’t have sales tax, and then that becomes an issue,” Reskovac said. “I don’t see it happening soon. Until the House resolves the differences between itself, it’s not going anywhere fast.”
He also opined on the likelihood of whether Senate Republicans will opt to use the “nuclear option” to confirm Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to replace deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The nuclear option would eliminate the 60-vote threshold needed to confirm Supreme Court nominees and overcome a filibuster from the opposing party, allowing them to pass it with a simple majority.
While Trump has indicated his desire to see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, employ the nuclear option, if needed, for Gorsuch, Reskovac said it’s hard to say whether McConnell will follow through – or whether it’s even needed.
“My instinct is you’ve got 10 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018 ... in states that Trump won,” he said. “And McConnell has been quoted as saying, ‘I can handle this. I know what the Senate rules are.’ If you invoked the nuclear option now, then everything is fair game.”