- The Washington Times
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

President Trump is crafting a second-term agenda that is a defiantly bigger version of his first term, outlining in the midst of his impeachment trial election-year plans for deeper tax cuts for the middle class and an expansion of the travel ban that embroiled the administration in a lengthy court battle.

The president also promised more hard-fought trade deals using the threat of tariffs, coming on the heels of an agreement with China. He also opened the door to entitlement cuts in his second term after vowing in 2016 never to touch Social Security.

“At the right time, we will take a look at that,” the president told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “That’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look. We also have assets that we’ve never had. I mean, we’ve never had growth like this.”

At a press conference wrapping up two days of high-level diplomatic meetings and salesmanship in Davos, Mr. Trump confirmed that he will soon announce an expanded travel ban to build on the immigration crackdown that he instituted in January 2017 against seven predominantly Muslim nations. Opponents challenged that action all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld a modified version of the president’s ban in June 2018.

“We’re adding a couple of countries to it,” the president told reporters. “Our country has to be safe. You see what’s going on in the world. So we have a very strong travel ban, and we’ll be adding a few countries to it.”

The president didn’t reveal which countries would be added to the list, which now restricts travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea. Among the nations under consideration are Belarus, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.

Expanding the ban should provide voters with a stark contrast between Mr. Trump and his Democratic opponent this fall. At every campaign rally, the president accuses Democrats of promoting “open borders” and sanctuary cities that harbor illegal immigrants.

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the administration had no announcements about changing the ban, which he called “profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world.”

“Common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counterterrorism measures,” Mr. Gidley said. “We do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States.”

The administration also is coming out with visa restrictions aimed at “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can obtain coveted U.S. passports.

The State Department planned to publicize the rules Thursday, two officials with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The rules would make it more difficult for pregnant women to travel on a tourist visa and possibly require them to convince a consular officer that they have a legitimate reason to travel to the U.S.

Mr. Trump has been agitating publicly since fall 2018 to address birth tourism.

The president also promised to release a “very big” plan within 90 days to cut taxes for the middle class.

“We’re going to be doing a middle-class tax cut, very big one,” Mr. Trump said on Fox Business at the Davos conference. “We’re going to be doing that. We have to win the House. And I think we can.”

He predicted that the ongoing “impeachment hoax” by House Democrats “really helps us in terms of the House.”

The Democratic majority in the House is unlikely to approve another tax cut this year. Mr. Trump called it “very important.”

Republicans would need a net gain of 18 seats to win the House majority, but at least 25 Republican lawmakers are giving up their seats this year. Seven House Democrats are retiring.

The plan is expected to cut tax rates for workers earning $30,000 to $100,000 per year who pay in the range of 24% to 28%, down to roughly 15%. The president told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo that he would also like to make permanent the tax cuts of 2017, but that effort has “a long way to go.”

His 90-day timetable for the tax cut plan would put the announcement around the April 15 deadline for filing income tax returns with the IRS. The president made a similar promise of tax cuts before the 2018 midterm elections, but Democrats won control of the House and little more was heard of the plan.

Pushing for more tax cuts would give Mr. Trump another campaign contrast with Democrats. Republicans accuse Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, in particular, of proposing costly agendas that would require massive tax increases.

Budget deficits topping $1 trillion annually would complicate the president’s tax cut plans, however.

Candidates usually shy away from talk of entitlement trimming, but Mr. Trump said Tuesday that he will address the costly social safety net of programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in a second term. Democrats quickly criticized him.

“Donald Trump is now directly saying what he’s previously only signaled in budget documents and anonymous reports: He will cut Medicare and Social Security if reelected, and he’s not hiding it anymore,” said Kyle Morse, a spokesman for the liberal super PAC American Bridge. “While this is the latest in a long line of broken promises from the president, the stakes of a second Trump term just got much higher for hardworking families and seniors struggling to get by across the country.”

The president also said the U.S. will seek a trade deal with the European Union now that he has signed a phase 1 deal with China and negotiated the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, reissuing his threat to impose tariffs on auto imports if Europeans don’t come to the table.

Mr. Trump discussed a trade deal with Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, on the sidelines of the Davos forum.

“I suspect we’re going to be able to make a deal. Otherwise, we’ll have to do something else,” the president said, referring to the threat of tariffs. “They have tariffs all over the place. They make it impossible. They haven’t wanted to negotiate with past presidents, but they’re going to negotiate with me.”

Increased trade, rather than the promise of tax relief, is more likely to affect Mr. Trump’s reelection prospects. While the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.5%, job creation in the U.S. slowed from 2.7 million in 2018 to 2.1 million in 2019.

Economic output in the fourth quarter of 2019 should come in around 2%, also a slowdown from 2.9% in 2018. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the president’s trade deals with China, Canada, Mexico, Japan and others “have inspired a lot of confidence among large and small businesses.”

“I think it’s going to add at least a half a point to GDP this year,” he said. “I think we’re going to be moving into the 3% zone.”

⦁ Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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