Trump’s initial picks, however, are all the more notable for the fact that he ran against the Republican establishment in Washington during much of his campaign for the presidency. He memorably torched House Speaker Paul Ryan on Twitter, alleging his disloyalty, and he pledged repeatedly to “drain the swamp” of lobbyist influence. With the exception of tax cuts and repealing Obamacare, Trump’s limited policy agenda bore little resemblance to the platform Ryan and House Republican candidates advocated.
Yet Ryan and McConnell should now have all the influence they could ask for in the new administration. Trump’s chief of staff is Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman who is a longtime ally of the House speaker—going back to Priebus’s days working in Wisconsin politics—and is closely aligned with the party leadership in Congress. Price, the nominee for health secretary, is one of Ryan’s best friends in Congress; Price succeeded him as chairman of the Budget Committee, and Ryan supported him in his losing bids for House leadership posts. His selection should augur well for close collaboration between the Trump administration and congressional Republicans in what will be one of their most difficult battles to come: repealing and replacing Obamacare. Price has also supported Ryan’s efforts to overhaul Medicare and Social Security, which Trump had opposed during the campaign.
Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are also fans of two Trump nominees who don’t serve in Congress. Would-be Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a longtime Republican donor who headed the state party in Michigan and backs charter schools and vouchers, while Trump’s pick for U.N. ambassador is Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, another favorite of conservatives in Congress who had endorsed Marco Rubio for president.
Trump’s team isn’t entirely composed of Republican insiders. Steve Bannon, the president-elect’s chief strategist, is no fan of Paul Ryan, and the incoming national security adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, is a Trump loyalist more than a GOP stalwart. Trump is said to be leaning toward Dr. Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which would be an unconventional choice given his lack of experience in housing policy.
But by and large, Trump has made the kind of appointments that would be expected of a far more traditional Republican candidate. And that is likely due to the influence of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, whom Trump named to replace Governor Chris Christie as his transition-team leader just days after the election. Pence is now the governor of Indiana, but before that he was a conservative leader alongside Ryan and Price in the House.
Trump may not be done tapping members of Congress for his Cabinet. Republican lawmakers have paraded through Trump Tower just about every day for job interviews and meetings, including Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, a candidate to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the GOP House leadership who could be chosen as interior secretary.