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Politics & Government

What A Republican Majority Means For The GOP Agenda

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

To hear more about what the Republican Congress might be able to do under President Trump, we are joined now by NPR's congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Hi, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Robert - great to be back with you.

SIEGEL: What can we expect from this new Republican era that begins in January?

DAVIS: Well, two things at the top of Donald Trump's list - first and foremost, he has a Supreme Court vacancy he's going to have to fill. He's already named an orbit of 20 conservative jurists that he's likely to nominate to the court. And that's going to consume a lot of oxygen in the Senate. He's also expected to roll back several of President Obama's executive orders on issues like immigration, environmental regulations.

And at the top of Congress's list - you know, the things we heard today from Republicans in Congress is that they feel they are re-energized in their efforts to repeal and replace President Obama's health care law also known as Obamacare and a lot of talk about renewed efforts to maybe overhaul the tax code. The last time that that happened was again under Republican unified control when George W. Bush was president.

SIEGEL: Now, House Speaker Paul Ryan and President-elect Trump still have a lot of differences. Can they actually work together?

DAVIS: The great Republican frenemy story of 2016 may have had a happy ending. Paul Ryan struck a very conciliatory tone today. Here's what he had to say.

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PAUL RYAN: When I say 7 out of 10 Americans don't like the direction the country's going, they just voted it. I think what Donald Trump just pulled off is an enormous political feat. It's an enormous feat in that he heard those voices that were out there that other people weren't hearing. And he just earned a mandate, and we now just have that unified Republican government.

SIEGEL: Is that how congressional Republicans actually see this election - as a mandate for their agenda?

DAVIS: So what's interesting is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was much more cautionary today. He warned his colleagues not to read too much into what happened last night. Take a listen to what he had to say.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: I think it's always a mistake to misread your mandate, and frequently new majorities think it's going to be forever. Nothing is forever in this country. We have an election every two years right on schedule. We have had since 1788. And so I don't think we should act as if we're going to be in the majority forever.

DAVIS: You know, Robert, McConnell was also - you know, he alluded to some of the battles we may see ahead between Republicans in Congress and the Trump White House. There are still tremendous policy differences.

One thing that came to mind today - Mitch McConnell said that Donald Trump's support for term limits on members of Congress is a non-starter. He said that would not be part of his agenda. He also warned the incoming president, Donald Trump, that any efforts to weaken NATO would be met with resistance from Congress. And when he was asked specifically about building that wall, Mitch McConnell sort of deferred, and he said he wasn't interested in talking about immigration today.

SIEGEL: Where do Democrats fit into this picture? Will they be able to work with the Republicans, or will they employ the same stonewalling tactics that Republicans have used in the Obama era?

DAVIS: You know, it remains to be seen. I think Democrats - and particularly on Capitol Hill - are still sort of searching their pockets for their wallet today, trying to figure out what happened. The Supreme Court fight is going to be an ideological battle. It is very likely that will fall on partisan lines.

I'm glad you're sitting further away from me so you can't grab my microphone because I'm going to reference the 2018 elections, and I don't think people are ready to talk about that yet.

SIEGEL: (Laughter).

DAVIS: But it is very important to keep this in mind when you're thinking about the next Congress. The 2018 midterm elections are very favorable for Republicans. Nine Senate Democrats are going to be up for re-election in states Donald Trump won last night, and they will have a lot of incentives to work with the Trump administration to win their own re-elections. So there is a path forward for compromise, and there is also a path forward in the next Congress for a tremendous legislative push.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Susan Davis. Thank you, Sue.

DAVIS: Thanks, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.