While Hillary Clinton barnstorms the country, trying to keep a few steps ahead of Donald Trump (and/or the FBI), her top advisers are crafting a three-pronged policy agenda for the likely next president to pursue during her first months in office, the Associated Press reports.
The Democratic nominee’s honeymoon plans are composed of three initiatives that have, at some point in recent history, commanded a modicum of Republican support — infrastructure spending, criminal-justice reform, and comprehensive immigration legislation.
To the extent that there’s been GOP buy-in for these proposals, however, that support has been contingent on lacing the bills with provisions that might make liberal Democrats squirm. Clinton has not proposed financing her infrastructure package through new debt, as former Treasury secretary Larry Summers has suggested, but rather via corporate tax reform. The specific reform that has the most bipartisan traction at the moment is a deal to give American corporations a giant tax cut on their overseas earnings, in exchange for those companies repatriating the $2.5 trillion in profits they’ve been hoarding offshore. Which is to say: The United States would pay a multi-trillion-dollar ransom to these corporations to get them to release the taxable profits they’ve been holding hostage abroad.
This would amount to a huge win for the tax evaders, but would likely generate enough revenue to pass a deficit-neutral infrastructure package (even if the tax rate on overseas earnings was slashed to 10 percent, one-tenth of $2.5 trillion can build a decent number of roads and bridges).
The version of criminal-justice reform with the most GOP support presents progressives with another tough pill to swallow — the decriminalization of white-collar crime.
The Koch brothers’ enthusiasm for criminal-justice reform is not the selfless expression of ideological scruples it’s been branded as. Rather, their preferred legislation includes provisions that would make it much harder for the government to prosecute executives like themselves for financial fraud, environmental pollution, or other corporate crimes. The key measure, pushed by Utah senator Orrin Hatch and the House GOP, would eliminate criminal liability for executives whose recklessness or negligence resulted in criminal acts by their companies. Instead, the government would be required to prove that such high-level managers were explicitly aware of the criminal activity their employees engaged in.
With regard to immigration, liberals have (mostly) already reconciled themselves to the GOP’s past demands (great gobs of pork for border defense, a massive expansion of guest worker programs, and measures that litter the undocumenteds’ pathway to legal status with all manner of hurdles and penalties). Still, few elected Republicans will look at the 2016 cycle and think, The best move for me, politically, would be to support a modified version of the Gang of 8 immigration bill.
Clinton does plan to hold the threat of executive action over the GOP lawmakers’ heads, suggesting that, if they refuse to cooperate, she will continue to liberalize immigration enforcement via fiat (after appointing a fifth liberal justice to the Court who would, presumably, give her the green light to do so). But most Republicans will prefer to cast Clinton as an unconstitutional tyrant rather than cast themselves as lovers of “amnesty” in some future primary opponents’ attack ad.
Ultimately, a similar political calculus will likely prevent Republican cooperation with even the most reactionary-friendly version of Clinton’s other policy priorities. At the end of the day, denying a Democratic president any political victories is a higher priority for the GOP than advancing their own policy goals. After all, Barack Obama embraced the Heritage Foundation’s vision of health-care reform — and was promptly declared a treasonous socialist who refused to make any good-faith effort at Republican outreach.
And the GOP’s strategy of mounting unconditional obstruction to delegitimize the Democratic president and mobilize the Republican base worked like gangbusters last time around — 2010 was one of the finest midterm elections in the party’s history. With the FBI providing no shortage of fodder for endless special investigations and murmurings about impeachment, there’s little reason to think that House Republicans will spend the bulk of the next two years negotiating with Clinton rather than interrogating her.