The president’s annual address to Congress is an opportunity for him to brag about his administration’s accomplishments and offer a wish list of other policy fixes he’d like lawmakers to undertake. Here are five of Trump’s top requests, ranked from most to least likely to happen — although getting anything done is a long shot in this divided Congress.
1. Lowering drug prices
What Trump said: “I am asking Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients.”
What’s likely: There is true bipartisan support for action on lowering drug prices. It’s a priority for House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House. Despite political pressure from the powerful pharmaceutical lobby to water down any legislation that would restrict drug companies' ability to raise prices, the widespread desire to do something on this issue is high. Though little of substance is expected to get done over the next two years, it is possible everyone could come together to at least chip away at this problem.
What Trump said: “I know that Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill, and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future.”
What’s likely: Every lawmaker across the political spectrum talks about the need for infrastructure investment in America. But that’s been true for the better part of a decade. The issue is not the issue itself but how to pay for it, and that’s where talks about improving the nation’s roads, bridges, transit, waterways, aviation systems and more break down. In a political climate this divisive, it’s hard to imagine Democrats and Republicans finding a way to pay a bill of this magnitude, especially as it would look like a capitulation to Trump.
What Trump said: “I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us.”
What’s likely: Trump has negotiated a new trade pact with Mexico and Canada that must still be ratified by Congress. But what Trump explicitly asked for in his address was that Congress provide him more power to impose retaliatory tariffs. Congress seems poised to do the exact opposite. Republican senators are working on legislation to weaken Trump’s ability to unilaterally impose tariffs.
4. Border wall
What Trump said: “Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.”
What’s likely: It wasn’t so long ago that a dispute over building a wall at the southern border shut down part of the federal government for 35 days. A bipartisan conference committee is working on a border security plan to appease both Trump and Democrats. But it almost certainly won’t include wall funding, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said Democrats absolutely won’t abide. If Trump wants money for a wall, he’ll probably need to get it by declaring a national emergency, which raises a host of other issues that will impede construction of said wall.
What Trump said: “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good. Together, we can break decades of political stalemate.”
What’s likely: Few Democrats in the room were buying Trump’s outreach, especially when he added the caveat that the only thing that stands in the way of “peace and legislation” is “ridiculous partisan investigations.” That line undercut everything else he said about wanting to work together, because it sounded like a warning to Democrats to back off. And while the president offered platitudes about bipartisanship, his speech included much of his standard fare about the crisis of illegal immigration that has angered Democrats. Moreover, past attempts by Trump to offer a truce have always ended in him resorting to old strategies of division and name calling.