For the rest of December, Washington Examiner reporters will be exploring what 2018 has in store in a number of areas, from the White House and Congress to energy and defense. See all of our year ahead stories here.
With tax reform in the rearview mirror, the Republican-led House and Senate in 2018 have a packed schedule ahead of the midterms, and will attempt to tackle immigration reform, infrastructure spending, welfare reform, and healthcare legislation.
On immigration, Republicans and Democrats plan to put a limited reform bill at the top of the congressional agenda. Senate Republican leaders have promised to take up a bipartisan immigration reform bill in January and are negotiating the terms of the bill.
The deal will likely legalize children of illegal immigrants. And it would provide funding for a border wall system that includes not only a new structure along the southern border, but roads and new technology aimed at stopping illegal border crossings. A new limitation on chain migration is also likely to be part of the deal, Republican lawmakers told the Washington Examiner.
Before tackling any big agenda items, Republicans and Democrats will have to work on a massive spending deal in January that will fund defense and domestic spending until October and which will lift federally imposed spending caps. In March, both parties will again have to work together on an accord to raise the federal spending limit.
Republicans are also likely to try to reform the nation’s welfare system, at least on the House side of the Capitol.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has pledged to take up legislation that would aim to move more people back into the workforce who are now on welfare.
“We are going to focus next year on people, on getting people from welfare to work, on making sure people get the skills they need to get the jobs they want and get the careers that get them the life they need,” Ryan said in December.
A 2018 agriculture bill will include a work requirement for food stamp recipients, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, told the Washington Examiner.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the upper chamber isn’t likely to take up a welfare reform measure, however. Instead, he said lawmakers will focus on an infrastructure bill, which was another key Trump campaign promise.
McConnell’s wife is Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
"I think the Democrats will not be interested in entitlement reform, so I would not expect to see that on the agenda,” McConnell told Axios just prior to leaving town for the holidays.
On healthcare, McConnell hinted that despite the wish among many within the party to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a healthcare overhaul will not be on the agenda for the party in 2018, largely due to losing a seat in the chamber after Senator-elect Doug Jones' victory in the Alabama special election on Dec. 12.
But Ryan is promising to take up measures to replace the healthcare law.
The individual marketplace has been hindered by rising premiums and disappearing health insurance companies and the law suffered a blow when Republicans passed the tax reform bill. The measure includes a provision ending the Obamacare mandate in 2019.
“Obamacare is collapsing and failing, so we won't be able to ignore that problem,” Ryan said. “So we're going to have to revisit the problem of a healthcare marketplace that is collapsing, and that is something that we're just going to have to get on to.”
One area in which McConnell could make his mark again is on the Supreme Court. With two justices on the bench over 80 years of age — Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — another opening on the court could allow for Trump and McConnell to help reshape the panel for the next generation.
"Well, we don't know whether there will be a retirement," McConnell told Axios. “But always, when there is a retirement, a Supreme Court vacancy is a big deal in this country."
Republicans and Democrats are likely to find agreement on a bank regulatory relief legislation struck by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, in November with Democrats that is supported by a bipartisan group of senators.
"It will be on my agenda," McConnell said. "The fact that Chairman Crapo has lined up a number of Democrats for it makes it a candidate for early consideration."