Breakfast Discussion: Could Trump Be Trumped by Congress?
- Reta Jo Lewis, Esq., Senior Fellow and Director of Congressional Affairs, The German Marshall Fund of the United States
- Kristel Ba, Program Officer, Transatlantic Leadership Initiative, The German Marshall Fund of the United States
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"I have a pen and a phone,” then-President Barack Obama said during his presidency, promising to change federal government policy through executive orders if Congress blocked all presidential initiatives. President Donald Trump has already confirmed his intentions to apply similar methods in order to quickly revoke the decisions of his predecessor — in areas such as immigration, health, climate change or trade policy. The new president has, by doing so, broken long-held norms on how executive power is exercised. Many Republican leaders have explicitly supported the executive orders, including on the controversial immigration ban, or have declined to challenge them publicly. The first weeks of the presidency therefore raise questions on the evolution of American political norms.
The U.S. Congress constitutes, with the Supreme Court, the most important check of the president’s power. Donald Trump will need to work with the Congress – and its Republican majority – in order to implement his program, and how far Trump can go depends a lot on how far Congress will let him go.
What are the red lines of the current Congress that could lead to a direct confrontation with the U.S. administration? Will it be possible to reconcile Republicans’ and Trump’s diverging stands on many key domestic and foreign policy issues? What have been the reactions of Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress vis-à-vis the first executive order? Who are the key players in Congress who have influence over the Trump Administration? Is bipartisanship dead? Should the judicial branch be blocked from performing its role as a check on the executive, could this lead to a constitutional crisis?