On trade, the president has repeatedly warned that he would withdraw the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement and threatened to impose border taxes and tariffs. But until last week, when Trump imposed a 30 percent tariff on solar panels, his administration had taken no major concrete actions to back up his words. Earlier in 2017, the White House had prevailed upon House Republican leaders to drop a proposal for a border adjustment tax as part of its much larger tax package approved in December.
To Trump’s credit, he has kept up a steady drumbeat calling on Congress to plus up military spending, fund his border wall, and overhaul the nation’s legal immigration system. But the fact that he will be making the same pleas again a year later only underscores that he has little to show for it despite Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate. The president won an initial infusion of funds for the Pentagon last spring, but the bulk of his request has stagnated amid a broader budget fight in Congress. Lawmakers ignored his request for wall money last spring. And negotiators in both parties have blamed the failure thus far to enact immigration legislation on a lack of clear direction from Trump, who has vacillated on the kind of deal he would accept in exchange for protecting young immigrants from deportation. Only late last week did the White House release a detailed proposal that includes $25 billion for the wall, reductions in legal immigration, and a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.
There’s also been little follow-through in the president’s stated desire to combat the opioid epidemic. Trump promised to declare a “national emergency” that would free up federal dollars for the crisis, but he never did so; instead, he classified the epidemic at a lower level of alarm. And while he named a presidential commission headed by then-Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, his administration adopted only a few of its recommendations. Similarly, a promised infusion of funding from Congress has yet to materialize.
Another of Trump’s unfulfilled promises was not for lack of trying. He devoted a significant chunk of last year’s speech to the Republican push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which died after multiple attempts in the Senate. Indeed, the effort the president poured into the failed health-care push prevented him from making headway on other issues. And with the GOP’s slim, 51 to 49 Senate majority this year, any repeat pledge to repeal Obamacare in the State of the Union is likely to be brief. Trump instead might decide to claim a partial victory due to the elimination of the law’s individual insurance mandate in the tax bill.
Trump did have his share of accomplishments in his first year as president, including promises he made during his initial address to Congress. He won the speedy confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, along with several other conservative judges to appellate and district courts across the country. He signed more than a dozen laws rescinding regulations promulgated in the final months of the Obama administration, withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, and initiated—through executive orders and agency action—the repeal of regulations affecting a wide range of businesses across the government. The Trump administration was able to point to a drop in violent crime nationwide, although it’s unclear whether the president’s ordered crackdown on illegal immigration or the Justice Department’s decision to prioritize prosecution of gangs like MS-13 was a significant factor. Just as with the economy, Trump will claim credit for the gains even if it’s not apparent they were due to anything he’s done.