By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate
For many years, my son Matt and I watched March Madness together (that was until he moved to Los Angeles). Not only are many of the games squeakers, I love the upsets and Cinderella teams that emerge during the tournament. Half of the fun is filling out the brackets and guessing which teams will move forward.
So, in honor of March madness, we bring you March policy madness. We have created a policy bracket of the issues we expect will make it past the first round of Congressional action. Just for fun.
Here’s an explanation of the Policy Brackets:
Upper Left: Healthcare vs. Border Wall
President Trump’s Executive Actions have identified both repeal of Obamacare and the potential construction of a border wall. Congressional attention is focused on repealing and or replacing the Affordable Care Act.
Healthcare wins this round.
Upper Left: Regulatory Reform vs. FY2018 Appropriations
Congress is hungry to take back policy-making power from the Executive Branch and has found a sweet spot—rolling back regulations—a move President Trump agrees with. He has already signed legislation repealing a Department of Interior rule and is expected to sign more repeals in the coming months.
On the other hand, appropriations is a long and cumbersome process. To get started, on Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations, President Trump needs to share a budget outline with Congress expected next month, and both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will need to pass all 11 appropriations bills by the end of September. This is a process that has not occurred in over 20 years.
Regulatory reform wins this round.
Lower Left: Trade vs. Supreme Court Nominee
President Trump has indicated that reforming trade policy is a high priority. But revamping global trade deals into bilateral negotiations will prove to be complicated. The Supreme Court vacancy, on the other hand, has been top of mind. Some Senate Democrats have privately conceded that they expect Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed, taking the place of Antonin Scalia.
The bracket goes to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Lower Left: Debt Ceiling v. Government Shutdown
Toward the end of the summer, the Treasury Department will have exhausted all “extraordinary measures” to continue paying the government’s bills. Once again, Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling. This close-to-annual exercise used to be non-controversial. But not anymore. This is an opportunity for Congress to discuss fiscal policy.
Another opportunity to discuss fiscal policy is the expiration of the Continuing Resolution on April 28th. In the past, government shutdowns have been threatened/executed, putting continued funding of the government at risk. Given that both Houses of Congress and the president are from the same party, it doesn’t seem likely that shutting down the government is an option. That being said, crazier things have happened in Washington.
Due to timing, debt ceiling wins by a single foul shot.
Upper Right: Taxes vs. Immigration
Tax reform, a priority of both the president and the Congress, is long overdue. In fact, comprehensive tax reform has not been successful since 1986. But don’t look for action overnight. Congressional Republicans are suggesting it will be undertaken sometime this fall.
On the other hand, immigration is even more contentious and bipartisan reform plans were last successful in 1996 under President Clinton. Since then, although there have been many efforts, reform has been elusive.
Tax wins this round.
Upper Right: Defense Spending vs. Infrastructure
Appropriators are currently preparing a special supplemental funding bill for the Defense Department and President Trump announced he would like to add $54 billion to the defense budget. The infrastructure bill hasn’t gained as much traction as the rhetoric about its importance.
Defense spending wins this round.
Lower right: FY17 Omnibus Appropriations vs. NDAA
The National Defense Authorization Act has a 55-year history of being signed into law each year. It is considered in Congress a “must pass” bill. Omnibus appropriations that combine multiple appropriations into a single bill have a spotty record at best. While Omnibus appropriations passed in Fiscal Year 2016, it is still unclear how the rest of FY17 will be funded. Because no one is quite sure, we declare NDAA the winner.
NDAA wins this round.
Lower right: Spending Cuts vs. Elimination of a Federal Agency
President Trump made a campaign promise to significantly decrease agency spending and is expected to propose major cuts in the FY2018 budget. Although eliminating agencies is possible, it is easier to starve an agency than eliminate it altogether.
Spending cuts win this round.
The Elite Eight issues that we predict will prevail to the next round in Washington are:
- Regulatory Reform
- Supreme Court Appointment
- Debt Ceiling
- Defense spending
- Spending Cuts
In Washington policy circles, representing women-owned businesses is often like rooting for the underdog. Women across the country who have joined our voice often end up winning the policy fight even though they are dismissed in the “first round.” But collectively, we can end up being the winners who bring home the victory. Not just for us, but for those who have come before us and those that are coming behind us.
Which issues do you think will score over the coming month? Tweet at us @WIPPWeDecide #DCelite8 with your predictions for the Final Policy Four.