President Donald Trump on Tuesday promised big wins in the next stretch of his administration, glossing past the reality that the political newcomer will celebrate his first 100 days without a major legislative victory.
In a speech that could be seen as a messaging test for that milestone, Trump hailed the opening days of his administration as a wild success and pledged to quickly deliver on health care, tax reform and infrastructure.
“No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days,” Trump declared in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he toured tool manufacturer Snap-on before delivering his remarks. “That includes on military, on the border, on trade, on regulation, on law enforcement — we love our law enforcement — and on government reform.”
Trump’s claim is in line with his past rhetoric — he told reporters nearly two weeks ago that he’s had “one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of the presidency.” (Thursday will actually mark the first 13 weeks of his administration.)
Trump, to his credit, has signed a host of executive orders and successfully nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But his presidency has been marred by White House infighting, staff shakeups and reorganization, court-ordered suspensions of his travel ban, evolving positions on campaign pledges, potential conflicts of interest, questions over transparency, and FBI and congressional investigations into his associates’ possible ties to Russian agents.
Perhaps most devastating, however, is the administration’s failed effort to usher legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare through the Republican-controlled House last month. Nevertheless, Trump suggested Tuesday that health care reform is imminent, casting it as the first major hurdle to cross before accelerating through his legislative agenda.
Trump encouraged attendees at the Snap-on facility to call their congressmen and “press everybody” to support GOP leaders’ legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare so Congress could pass tax reform next. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin once flagged August as a realistic deadline but has since acknowledged that is “highly aggressive to not realistic at this point.”
But Trump insisted that “we’re on time, if we get that health care approval.” It’s unclear, however, whether the president was indicating that his administration is on time to complete a tax reform package by August or whether his comments were making clear that the White House isn’t behind on enacting its legislative agenda despite the health care stumble.
“We wanna get that approval,” Trump said. “And it just makes the tax reform easier, and it makes it better. It’s gonna make it steeper. It’s gonna be bigger, and that’s what we wanna do.”
Democrats and transparency advocates have argued that tax reform is impossible without the president first disclosing his tax returns to the American people to see how he could benefit from legislation he has the authority to sign into law.
“Until Pres Trump releases his full tax returns, a cloud of suspicion will remain & make it much harder to pass tax reform through Congress,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted.
Trump insisted that his administration is “in very good shape on tax reform.”
“We have the concept of the plan. We’re gonna be announcing it very soon,” he said. “But health care, we have to get the health care taken care of. And as soon as health care takes care of, we are gonna march very quickly. You’re gonna watch. We’re gonna surprise you. Right, Steve Mnuchin? Right?”
The president didn’t end his bold promises there. He added infrastructure reform to the mix. Trump has proposed an investment in American infrastructure that could exceed a $1 trillion price tag, a figure for which Schumer and other Democrats have expressed support.
Trump said his administration will repair the nation’s “badly depleted infrastructure … soon.” But he wasn’t clear about how he would accomplish that.
“Infrastructure. Big infrastructure bill,” Trump said. “Probably use it with something else that’s a little bit harder to get approved in order to get that approved. But infrastructure is coming, and it’s coming fast.”
Trump toured Snap-on to tout a “Buy American, Hire American” executive order designed to make good on his campaign pledge to put America — and Americans — first. Trump has often come under fire for his position, given that the billionaire businessman has had products manufactured overseas and relied on foreign workers for cheap labor.
In a museum-like display room featuring a table of Snap-on products sold as souvenirs during the walk-through, Snap-on CEO Nick Pinchuk told the president that some customers wanted a box large enough to carry ashes following a cremation, according to a White House pool report.
“That’s depressing,” Trump replied.
He signed the executive order after speaking at the plant. And while his remarks at times centered on how the administration will prioritize American workers and U.S. products, the president’s speech included big pledges and tough talk on trade.
Promising to stand up for Wisconsin’s dairy farmers, Trump singled out Canada for doing “some very unfair things,” which he didn’t detail but said he read about.
“What’s happened to you is very, very unfair. It’s another typical one-sided deal against the United States, and it’s not gonna be happening for long,” Trump said, promising to call Canada and “get the solution, not just the answer” to what happened.
He continued ripping NAFTA, as he did on the campaign trail, calling the North American trade pact “a complete and total disaster.”
“NAFTA’s been very, very bad for our country,” Trump added. “It’s been very, very bad for our companies and for our workers, and we’re gonna make some very big changes or we are going to get rid of NAFTA for once and for all. Cannot continue like this. Believe me.”
Trump said his “historic” executive order would help protect workers by declaring “the policy of our government is to aggressively promote and use American-made goods and to ensure that American labor is hired to do the job.”
Reporters asked White House policy aide Stephen Miller why the order was necessary because it appears that many, or perhaps even all, of the provisions could be accomplished without executive action, according to a pool report. Miller declined to respond and boarded Air Force One for the trip back to Washington, D.C.