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Advocacy and Action

Trump Delivers First Address to Joint Session of Congress

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On February 28, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump brought up a number of issues and intentions. During the hour-long speech, Trump did not touch on specifics related to higher education, but upcoming legislation and policy would certainly have direct and indirect impact on colleges and universities.

Trump also echoed many of the positions his campaign—and now administration—supports, related to middle-class jobs creation, border security, terrorism, and the confirmation of his nominee to the Supreme Court—Neil Gorsuch.

The president announced that he will ask Congress to approve legislation that “produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure for the United States, financed through both public and private capital, creating millions of newjobs.” Such an investment would eclipse the American Recovery and ReinvestmentAct of 2009 stimulus bill, which included $105 billion of the package’s $831 billion in total spending for infrastructure improvements.

Regulations Out, DACA Uncertain

Trump also highlighted his long-standing position that there are too many regulations in Washington, mentioning the deregulation task forces he plans to place in each agency, as well as his executive order directing federal agencies to identify two existing regulations for elimination for every one new regulation promulgated. Few specifics have been provided on how this deregulation plan would work.

The president also called for border security and the enforcement of current immigration laws. He made no indication of what this means for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows young undocumented individuals, who meet specific criteria, to register with the federal government—without fear of deportation—in order to work, pay taxes, and attend school in a way that’s legally sanctioned.

Changes to ACA

While the details of a “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act were uncertain at the time of the speech, the president made clear that his campaign promise was still a top priority. Congressional Republicans in both chambers passed a budget resolution in January that included instructions permitting ACA repeal legislation to move through the Senate; this process would prohibit Democrats from filibustering.

In his address, Trump highlighted principles for Congress to consider when replacing the ACA:

  • Allow for patients with pre-existing conditions to have access to coverage.
  • Help citizens purchase their own coverage through the use of tax credits and expanded health savings accounts.
  • Give governors resources and flexibility with regard to Medicaid.
  • Protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs.
  • Allow for the purchase of insurance across state lines.

A week after the president’s speech, House Republicans unveiled their health care legislation and quickly scheduled it for committee markup. At the time of the release, the legislation did not repeal the ACA provision, allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they reach the age of 26. However, left in place was the widely unpopular ‘Cadillac tax’ for plans with high premiums, although implementation of the tax would now be delayed until 2025.

At press time, the ACA legislation was pulled for lack of votes.

Plans for Taxes, Jobs, and the Budget

During the joint session, Trump did not provide any details on his tax plan, though he did mention “massive tax relief for the middle class.” His mentions of taxes were focused solely on businesses.

Following the joint session, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, “President Trump’s plan to grow our economy will work because it focuses on a middle-income tax cut for working families and an end to regulations that are stifling job creation.” He added that the administration plans to “unleash the new jobs and higher wages Americans desperately need and deserve.”

Trump, on March 16, released a budget request for federal FY18. The plan calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, offset by $54 billion in reductions to non-defense discretionary programs. The next budget moves are in the hands of Congress, which will develop the final budget and consider the administration’s requests. Trump would level-fund Pell Grants, but eliminate or cut other federal student aid programs. 

NACUBO CONTACT Bryan Dickson, senior policy analyst, 202.861.2505

The next budget moves are in the hands of Congress.

Congressional Republicans in both chambers passed a budget resolution in January that included instructions permitting ACA repeal legislation to move through the Senate.