Law360 Quotes Hunter Bates and Ed Pagano on Trump’s First Year Legislative Accomplishments

Hunter Bates and Ed Pagano, partners in the public law and policy practice at Akin Gump, have been quoted in the Law360 article “Tax Bill Tops Trump’s Year One Legislative Victories.” It was a year that Bates, who co-heads the practice, described as “remarkably successful,” citing the recent victory on the tax bill.

“While the president and congressional Republicans did not bat 1,000,” Bates, a former chief of staff to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, said, “their batting average coming into 2018 is pretty high relative to their priorities coming in.” To underscore this, he cited the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s individual mandate, the 15 Congressional Review Act resolutions passed repealing Obama-era rules, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for exploration and potential drilling, administrative actions on hundreds of other rules and confirmation of 19 judges, among President Trump’s accomplishments.

Pagano took a different view, contrasting it with the first year in office for President Barack Obama, for whom he served as Senate liaison. He said Mr. Trump is going to have an uphill battle to push legislation through Congress next year. “That is historically disappointing when you look at the first two years of other administrations that didn’t even have majorities of both bodies getting accomplished. It is going to be a thin record for the first two years.”

Pagano mentioned the failure by Republicans to replace the ACA and their inability to come together behind a single plan. This shows, he said, that “Democrats are needed particularly in the Senate with the 60-vote threshold and even in the House with the Freedom Caucus, leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have additional leverage.”

Looking ahead, Pagano said, “There is not a lot of reward for Senate and House Democrats to work with the Trump administration and the Republican majority, especially when they have not given any reason to do so this year.”

Bates agreed somewhat, noting that several big issues, including reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration spending caps and an infrastructure bill, will need bipartisan support that he said will be “very hard to find in an election year.” He continued, “I think 2018 will be a very challenging environment. I think Democrats are not going to feel a great incentive to have bipartisan accomplishments with President Trump and I think that will make it particularly difficult.”

One potential area of agreement between Democrats and President Trump, Bates said, is with NAFTA. “The biggest sleeper issue for 2018 is how does that play out and will Democrats come out and publicly support efforts to withdraw from NAFTA or will the president ultimately conclude that NAFTA can be reformed but not tossed out,” he said.

Bates noted that President Trump could come down on the side of most Republicans and decide to keep the deal, but either way he’s playing with fire. “The wrong outcome on NAFTA could undercut all of President Trump's achievements on the economy.”