BY DARLENE SUPERVILLE
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (AP) — Eager for more legislative achievements before Washington's focus shifts to the midterm elections, President Donald Trump plans to start the new year by meeting with Republican congressional leaders to plot the 2018 legislative agenda, the White House said.
After returning to Washington from Florida, where he is spending the holidays, Trump will host House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky at the rustic Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland during the weekend of Jan. 6-7.
Spokesmen for Ryan and McConnell have confirmed they will attend. The powwow will follow the recent enactment of legislation to cut taxes, beginning next year, for corporations and individuals at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion added to the national debt over 10 years.
The bill marked the first big legislative achievement for Trump and congressional Republicans, who made cutting taxes a must-do this year after the Senate failed to close the deal on another top GOP promise: to repeal and replace the Obama health care law.
While the tax bill ends the requirement that all Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine, which is a key component of the Affordable Care Act, it leaves intact other features of the health care law. No Democrats voted for the tax bill, which Trump signed during a hastily arranged White House ceremony, without any lawmakers present, before he flew to Florida last Friday.
The agenda for next year is already lengthy, and 2018 is still a few days away. Trump predicted in a tweet earlier this week that Democrats and Republicans will "eventually come together" to develop a new health care plan. The president is also forecasting unity between the parties on spending to upgrade aging roads, bridges and other transportation. The White House has said Trump will unveil his long-awaited infrastructure plan in January.
Ryan, meanwhile, has talked about overhauling Medicaid and Medicare and other welfare programs, but McConnell has signaled an unwillingness to go that route unless there's Democratic support for any changes. Trump has also said he wants to pursue "welfare reform" next year because "people are taking advantage of the system."
Congress, meanwhile, will open the year facing a backlog from 2017. The list includes agreeing by Jan. 19 on a government funding bill to avert a partial government shutdown and to boost Pentagon spending. Lawmakers also must agree on billions in additional aid to help hurricane victims, lifting the debt ceiling so the United States can pay its bills, extending a children's health insurance program and drafting protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Trump tweeted earlier in the year that he was ending the program for the immigrants. He gave lawmakers until March 5 to come up with a legislative solution, or the individuals will begin to face the risk of being deported.
Much of the work will need to be done before Republicans shift their focus to retaining their House and Senate majorities in midterm elections taking place in November 2018. The GOP's already slim Senate majority will get even slimmer come January, when Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama is sworn in, leaving Republicans with a 51-49 edge in the chamber.
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