Republicans have been playing nice after Donald Trump helped them sail to a congressional majority, but there are issues coming down the line that will expose the rifts between the Republican orthodoxy and the views of the president-elect. From the start of his campaign, Trump was running not just against his Republican foes but against the Republican Party itself. And they were running against him as well, especially in the beginning months of the primaries. But it didn’t end there; even after he became the nominee, he remained in regular opposition to party leaders like Paul Ryan and former Republican nominees like John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Some of this opposition came down to tangential stories like Trump’s comments on a Hispanic judge presiding over the Trump University fraud trial or the Access Hollywood tape that leaked in early October, but there were also substantial breaks on hard policy matters; we’re soon to see how those breaks play out.
The conventional wisdom is that Republicans have the Senate, the House, and the White House. But that may not be the case. They have the Senate and the House, but even though Trump is a “Republican” president, he’s not the kind of free-market conservative that usually wears that badge. And when it comes to issues like American outsourcing and trade, we’re likely to see an intraparty conflict in the early months of 2017.
On Monday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Ryan both told reporters that they did not support Trump’s plan to punish American companies who move their manufacturing operations to another country.
“I don’t want to get into some kind of trade war,” said McCarthy.
“I think we can get at the goal here,” Ryan said in an interview, “which is to keep American businesses American, build things in America and sell them overseas — that can be properly addressed with comprehensive tax reform.”
At the conservative group Club for Growth, president David McIntosh released a statement opposing Trump’s plan.
“Tax cuts and deregulation will make the American economy great again, but tariffs and trade wars will make it tank again,” McIntosh said. “The majority leader is right to caution against protectionism and to urge a robust debate on free markets and trade.”
Ultimately, Trump’s goal is to keep American companies on American soil. If Republicans can help him do that through tax reform, he’ll likely go along with it. If not, we may find out very quickly where the real power is in 2017’s Washington.