Analysis: Top 5 stories of 2017 & Top 5 stories to watch in 2018

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Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R.-Wis.) kneels in front of Majority Whip Stephen J. Scalise (R.-La.) in the speaker's office suite during Scalise's Sept. 28, 2017 return to the Capitol. (Courtesy of Speaker.gov)

For the permanent government in Washington, the 2016 election was really about whether the good times the city enjoyed under eight years of President Barack Obama would continue under former first lady Hillary R. Clinton or would New York City developer Donald J. Trump enter the nation’s capital intent on reversing the swing of power and money to Washington.

Well, Trump won in 2016 and 2017 was the year he and the federal village got to know each other.

Virtually none of it was pretty, but there were moments of triumph for the new president and events that will stand up to the test of history.

Here are the Top 5 stories of 2017:

5. National Security. Trump’s national security reset that includes, getting NATO to pay up and tighten up their shot group, a real war against ISIS that we no longer call ISIL and a serious approach to the challenges in East Asia is a big deal.

One of the only consistencies in Obama’s foreign policy was that he always choose actions that benefitted the Islamic Republic of Iran: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Egypt are examples that spring to mind without bringing up the pallets of cash Obama sent to Iran to cement his fledging alliance with Iran.

In 2017, Trump ended that alliance.

President Donald Trump, joined by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, participates in a Memorial Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia | May 29, 2017 (White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

4. Draining the Swamp. The Swamp Rats were exposed, and critically, those Washington operators are so committed to the establishment that instead of merging up with the Trump administration they have continued their resistance to his agenda. In past GOP administrations, these operators would merge in with the new White House team, but fortunately for Trump, the #NeverTrump crowd is so committed to opposing the president they never went into the shadows. We know who they are and where they are, they are not a hidden enemy.

3. Supreme Court. Neil M. Gorsuch on the Supreme Court is not only a 20 or 30-year extension on the jurisprudence of Scalia–and it is also a beautiful tribute to his mother Anne McGill Burford, who was one of Reagan’s EPA administrators–a woman mercilessly hounded by the press and the establishment–when the House voted to hold her in contempt for not turning over documents, 55 Republicans votes for the motion.

2. Gun rights and the emergence of Scalise. National Concealed Carry Reciprocity passed the House on the back of GOP House Whip Stephen J. Scalise (R.-La.), a man, who had every incentive to flip and become of voice for restricting gun rights and lionized in the mainstream media for it. Instead, Scalise carried the reciprocity bill on his back and in the process became the natural leader of House Republicans.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R.-Wis.) kneels in front of Majority Whip Stephen J. Scalise (R.-La.) in the speaker’s office suite the day of Scalise’s Sept. 28, 2017 return to the Capitol. (Courtesy of Speaker.gov)

1. Tax Reform.  The Dec. 21 White House ceremony was an amazing way to end the year, as we saw the GOP united under the leadership of the president. Because the Republican Party is the country’s dominant party, the Democrats only win when the GOP is divided. For Republicans and the president 2017 closed with a happy ending that sets the party up for big things in 2018

Looking forward to 2018

5. Infrastructure. The infrastructure bill could be a positive vehicle for building up the country the way the federal government did during the New Deal work programs and Eisenhower’s 10-year superhighway bill, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. There has been a consensus in Washington for 20 years that the country needs a massive infrastructure upgrade, but Republicans have not trusted Democrats not to divert funds into party building projects. Now, with a majority of GOP governors and with the Republicans in nominal control of both houses on Capitol Hill, it is time. Trump set the funding at $1 trillion and only time will tell if the American people get $1 trillion worth of infrastructure for the $1 trillion spent.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower cuts the ribbon at the Nov. 3, 1959 ceremony opening an extension to George Washington Parkway. The extension was funded through Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. (Photo courtesy of the Eisenhower Presidential Library)

4. More budget and tax reform. We saw after the Tea Party election of 2010 there were serious reforms, such as The Budget Control Act of 2011, but after that, we have had six years for backtracking and regression back to the mean. The test for Capitol Hill conservatives is for them to hold the line against the permanent government that is committed to growing Washington, bigger and stronger, even as the heartland cracks under the burden of federal taxation and regulations.

3. War. The war is coming in one of four places: Syria, Ukraine, Baltics or Korea Peninsula. Which one is anyone’s guess. It would be especially troublesome if multiple adversaries dragged us into kinetic action at the same time–and that could happen quick.

Ukrainian Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 80th Airmobile Brigade fire a ZU-23-2 towed antiaircraft weapon before conducting an air assault mission in conjunction with a situational training exercise led by Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Nov. 28, 2016 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. This training is part of their 55-day rotation with the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. JMTG-U is focused on helping to develop an enduring and sustainable training capacity within Ukraine. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

2. Life and gun rights. The Republican Party has never kept its promises to the Life and Guns factions–in fact, these are the very people the GOP leaders and staffers are most embarrassed by–just as the Democrats move to the center on both issues.

No two issues would do more to break up the Democratic coalition, will the GOP see what the Democrats are starting to act on, because the Democratic coalition is built on materialism. When Republicans treat elections like auctions, they lose because they can never outbid Democrats. If the election is fought on values, especially gun rights and life? Republicans win.

The first March for Life in Washington held one after the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe V. Wade decision, which stripped legal protections from unborn children. (Photo courtesy of the March for Life)

It is up to the Senate to pass the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill that already passed the House, but the Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R.-Texas) is working overtime to not only torpedo the reciprocity bill, he is working to strengthen background checks for firearm transactions.

In October the House passed a bill banning abortions after the 20-week mark, because after it is after that point that an unborn child can feel pain and certainly the torture of dying as it is extracted from her mother’s womb.

After the bill passed the House, Senate Majority Leader A. Mitchell McConnell (R.-Ky.) promised a vote on the Senate version that has at least 45 co-sponsors, still short of the 60 votes required to end debate and force and up-or-down vote.

If the Republicans fail to make Senate Democrats vote on the reciprocity and 20-week bills, hey once again betraying the party’s two most important factions–they are also once again disarming Republicans challengers, taking away two passionate issues that hurt Democrats and motivate the GOP base.

1. Midterms! The GOP has not had 60 senators, since the election of 1906, this is the real fight. The House will take care of itself, at least for one more cycle in the current districts. Of course, if the House Republican Conference can somehow maneuver Speaker Paul D. Ryan Jr. (R.-Wis.) back to private life and hand the gavel to Scalise? Look for a 20-seat pickup.

The real fight is the Senate. Democrats defending 26 out of 33 seats make them more vulnerable than in the 1980 election, when the Democrats were defending 24 seats ande the Republicans were defending 10. In 1980, the GOP picked up 12 seats giving it control of the Senate for the first time, since the Senate elected in 1952.

If the Republicans can hold the House and run up the score in the Senate, the Trump agenda, the agenda the American people were promised, has a real shot of getting accomplished.

U.S. Capitol (Big League Politics photo by Neil W. McCabe)
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