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Top Issues for Trump's State of the Union 2018

Politicians and pundits are abuzz today in anticipation of President Trump’s first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress this evening. The content of the speech will be the main focus of the evening, but there’s also plenty of chatter about who members of Congress and the White House have invited to attend as guests, who is refusing to show up, and who will be delivering the Democrats’ multiple rebuttals.

In preparation, CEI’s policy analysts have prepared their predictions and recommendations on a variety of issues. Below is a round-up of what Trump might say, what he should say, and how members of both parties can work together to accomplish something valuable for the American people.

Government Affairs Manager Taylor Barkley draws attention to seven pieces of existing legislation that the White House and Congress should be working together to pass:

Congress should make it a priority to pass a number of important regulatory reform bills, including the recently introduced Guidance Out Of Darkness (GOOD) Act in the Senate and House, the House-passed Regulatory Accountability Act, the House-passed Regulatory Integrity Act, the House-passed Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome  (SCRUB) Act, and the House-passed Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. These bills would bring transparency to regulatory guidance documents, restore proper congressional oversight of federal agencies, and require that agencies review the impact of regulations for their effectiveness, among other key reforms. Congress should do all it can to reassert and reclaim its constitutional Article I authority.

Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis urges Trump to finally close the books on U.S. involvement with the Paris Climate Agreement, the global warming treaty that was signed by President Obama but never submitted for ratification to the Senate:

The Paris Agreement is designed to mobilize a permanent, global campaign to “name and shame” policymakers who fail to rig energy markets against fossil fuels. Paris parties are expected to honor their non-binding commitments by turning them into binding laws and regulations. Especially when the party is a promise-keeping country like the United States, “non-binding” is a distinction without a difference.

In short, the Paris Agreement effectively demands the suppression of America’s surging oil and gas production—a major source of new jobsgeopolitical strengthconsumer savings, and competitive advantage. Why would any sensible person stay in a club organized to browbeat her into acting against her best interests and better judgment?

Policy Analyst Daniel Press lays out five priorities for the administration on banking and finance:

The Trump Administration could champion a better approach to consumer protection by abolishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an unconstitutional and aggressive federal regulator. The nineteen consumer protection statutes that the CFPB administers could then be transferred to a body such as the Federal Trade Commission, or the Bureau could be remade from scratch. If Congress does not have the appetite to abolish the Bureau outright, there are two other options for reform remain that will solve the constitutional problems of the Bureau. The first is to turn the Bureau into a standard executive agency with a director that is removable by the president. The alternative is to retain the Bureau as an independent agency, but with a multi-member, bipartisan commission.

Senior Fellow Marc Scribner offers solid advice on how to avoid the pitfalls we're likely to encounter in any major new infrastructure initiative:

CEI has long opposed so-called “performance-based” discretionary grant programs, pointing out that the selection process is often politically driven and opaque, which results in waste. The Obama administration’s much smaller Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program helped fuel the aborted rebirth of American streetcars—a 19th century transportation technology long eclipsed by the cheaper, faster motor bus and that was inexplicably very popular with gullible transit advocates until the obvious problems became painfully and embarrassingly obvious.

Director of the Center for Energy and Environment Myron Ebell recounts the administration’s policy successes so far in the energy and environment sphere:

He will also undoubtedly talk about his “energy dominance” agenda. The Trump administration is undoing much of Obama’s regulatory overreach designed to hamper coal, oil, and gas production. The president kept another campaign promise when he signed a resolution of disapproval passed by Congress under the Congressional Review Act striking down the Stream Protection Rule, which would have banned most underground coal mining. The coal leasing moratorium on federal lands is gone. Rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), which is already regulated by the states, are being undone. In sharpest contrast to the Obama years, more federal lands and offshore areas are being opened to competitive oil and gas leasing. And Congress, with strong support from the administration, included in the tax cuts bill a provision to open a small part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas exploration, thereby ending a thirty-year debate. 

Research Fellow Ryan Radia lays out options for attracting highly educated, tech-savvy immigrants:

For supporters of free markets and competitive enterprise, one aspect of the immigration debate is often overlooked: the importance of welcoming skilled immigrants into the United States. Talented, educated, hard-working people from around the world want to come to the United States to live, work, and raise families—but America’s federal immigration laws greatly restrict the ability of skilled immigrants to come to the United States. The result? Slower economic growth, lower tax receipts, fewer inventions patented in the United States, and diminished opportunities—both economic and otherwise—for American employers, native-born citizens, and prospective immigrants.

Policy Analyst Trey Kovacs warns of how government employee unions could be sabotaging executive branch reform:

An Inspector General report documents the practice of paralegals at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board charging over half their work hours to the billing code “Other Time.” A senior manager deemed the pay code as the “I don’t have work but I’m going to get paid” code.

Management should have addressed this waste, but agency managers did not, in part, because they understood the union collective bargaining to allow this practice and feared “being subject to [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] or union complaints for attempting to address the ‘Other Time’ issues.”

Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews details six ways the Trump administration has already moved to cut government red tape:

To the extent possible within legislative requirements, Trump required executive (not independent) agencies to eliminate at least two rules for every one issued via a now well-known executive order (E.O. 13,771). So far, the administration claims a 22-1 ratio instead, having dispensed with 67 rules and adding three “significant” ones. This rollback job will become harder in 2018 as low-hanging, quick-to-eliminate rules are addressed. Still, the administration is calling for the approach to be expanded and continued in fiscal year 2018

Senior Fellow John Berlau urges the president and Congress to allow more investment opportunities for Americans who are not (yet) millionaires:

The Fair Investment Opportunities for Professional Experts Act would allow non-wealthy Americans who have proven their investing competence, such as licensed brokers and investment advisers, to participate in private offerings free of most of the red tape from Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, and other securities laws. Under Regulation D, which the Securities and Exchange Commission promulgated in 1982, these “accredited investors” have been strictly defined as those who have at least $1 million in assets other than their principal residence, or who have made $200,000 per year for three of the last five years.

Millions of Americans will be watching while these and other issues are raised. Will part of this evening’s broadcast join the ranks of most memorable State of the Union moments in history? You’ll have to watch to find out.