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Trump's Priorities As He Hits 100 Days


Congress returns to Washington tomorrow to a full schedule. Top priority is preventing a government shutdown and coming up with a spending plan everyone likes. The White House has its own priorities as President Trump stares down his hundred-day report card, whether he likes it or not. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson is with us this morning.

Good to have you, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Lynn. Good to be here.

NEARY: And Mara, the president doesn't seem to like this 100 days - first 100 days measurement. Why not?

LIASSON: Well, it's an artificial construct. A year would be a heck of a lot better, accurate measure of a president's success. But during the campaign, he did run on all the things he was going to get done in a hundred days. And since he's been president, he's been bragging about how much he has actually accomplished in his first 30, 40, 90 days, even as he complains about it. But the White House is also pushing back on this idea that the metric for accomplishment should be legislation passed. They point to Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, all the Obama regulations the president has moved to get rid of. And it's absolutely true that those things alone make conservatives very, very happy. But that's not enough for President Trump.

NEARY: Well, what does the president want?

LIASSON: He would like to see some legislative accomplishments if he can get them by next Saturday. That's why he's been pushing for another vote on an Obamacare replacement bill, and that's why he's been trying to include funding for his border wall in that must-pass government funding bill that's needed to keep the government open by - and it has to be passed by midnight Friday.

NEARY: Well, what about health care? I mean, can this really move forward after its humiliating defeat?

LIASSON: That's a good question, and it doesn't sound like it - or at least not soon. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, on a conference call with Republican lawmakers yesterday said that government funding was his priority, not health care, and that he wouldn't bring a health care bill to the floor unless he knew he had the votes. So the - and there's no sign yet that lawmakers are any closer to seeing details of a new bill that the conservative House Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group have been trying to negotiate.

NEARY: Well, Congress is laser-focused on the government funding bill. Can the White House use it to fund their priorities and then claim a legislative win?

LIASSON: That is the million-dollar question. You know, no one wants a government shutdown. That would send the most unmistakable message that Republicans can't govern. But the White House says it wants to get a legislative win for the president, and it wants to put some of his priorities into that bill. It wants to put funding for the border wall. Now, they need Democratic support to pass the government funding bill in the Senate - they need 60 votes - and Democrats say, no, we are not going to vote for funding for the border wall. After all, President Trump said Mexico was going to pay for it. So that is the big government shutdown drama this week.

NEARY: Yeah.

LIASSON: Will Donald Trump get funding for the border wall in this government funding bill, or will he capitulate and sign a bill without funding for the wall?

NEARY: What about an overhaul of the tax code? That's a big priority for the president. What about the chances of that?

LIASSON: That is a big priority for the president, and he has created a lot of drama around this. Yesterday, he text - he tweeted yesterday. He said, big tax reform and tax reductions will be announced Wednesday - a lot of capital letters in that tweet.

NEARY: (Laughter).

LIASSON: He's called the tax bill that he wants to propose massive. He says it will be bigger than any tax cut ever. But White House officials say that on Wednesday, he will just talk about his parameters, a kind of outline of the bill, not give specifics on the tax bill. And what was one of the most interesting reactions to the president's comments was Wall Street. The markets really didn't react as they usually do on the expectations of a massive huge tax cut, and maybe the markets are starting to tune President Trump out a little bit. And, you know, tax reform, as opposed to just a smaller package of corporate tax cuts, is a huge undertaking. And Congress usually can't do more than one big thing at a time. And they only really have about a year to get it done before members' attention turn to the 2018 elections, and that makes...


LIASSON: ...Tough votes much harder to take.

NEARY: Great, Mara. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.