Washington these days is comparable to the line from the “Forrest Gump” movie — “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Washington insider James Slotnick, JD, spoke at the Pekin Community Bank’s 10th Annual Evening for Business Leaders Thursday evening at the Pekin Country Club. Slotnick is the assistant vice president for government relations for Sun Life Financial U.S. The topic was “An Insider’s View of the Trump Effect.”

Slotnick said life in Washington has changed.

“Everyone is on their toes a little bit more, and we’ve all come to expect the unexpected,” said Slotnick after the presentation. “The president is not a career politician, and in many ways, that’s great. But some of the procedural ways things are done he doesn’t necessarily agree with, and that’s made it harder for him.

“That said, everyone is trying to figure out a way to work with him so we can all be successful.”

Slotnick, in his presentation, focused on Trump’s work with the 115th Congress, Trump administration priorities and what the top priorities are.

Trump’s legislative success or failure, said Slotnick, depends on one’s party affiliation — whether the first 258 days have been successful or they have not been successful.

“The reason why I say this is when you put his accomplishments up there, the president has been able to move 47 bills through congress; 15 Obama-era regulations have been removed from the books; the president was able, of course, to get Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court; and then the deal he made at the time, Chuck (Schumer) and Nancy (Pelosi) two weeks ago in September, avoiding what would have been a devastating October, so all of the obligations the United States has government shut down,” said Slotnick. “And more importantly, he made sure that our debt ceiling increased so that, of course, all of the obligations the United States have we are continuing to be able to pay for those.

“So if you took that in some sort of a vacuum, that’s been a good 260 days or so. That’s a fair amount of accomplishments for someone that really didn’t have a political background to be able to push through in those 260 days. But of course, on the other side, and maybe even within the Republican Party some point to this as well, ‘Well yeah, that’s great.’ But really there was no signature piece of legislation moved through.”

Slotnick said the then-president elect and Republicans on the day after the election indicated the Affordable Care Act would be repealed by April and tax reform “signed, sealed and delivered” by August.

“Whether you think he’s been successful or not, again, we have to remember that if Sec. (Hillary) Clinton was president she would have had just as hard a time, if not a harder time moving legislation as the president has,” said Slotnick.

Trump has a 52-seat majority in the Senate, which, said Slotnick is a great majority. Republicans control the House as well. Slotnick said to get a bill passed in the Senate 60 votes are really needed to end a filibuster and move legislation.

Tax reform

Trump is now working on tax reform legislation. The legislation presented lowers the number of tax brackets to three from seven.

There are two options for tax reform for Republicans at this point.

The Unified Framework revenue neutral option would reduce individual and corporate taxes and offset the loss in revenue by removing almost all of the tax deductions and exclusions. The pitch Republicans are using to sell the idea, said Slotnick, is that it is a fiscally prudent way to create a pro-growth economy. 

The second option would be a 10 year tax cut that reduces individual and corporate tax rates that would keep most deductions/exclusions in place. The Republican pitch for it is economic growth would offset the lower tax rates. However, the plan would add approximately $1.5 trillion to the debt.

“Tax reform is hard and just like we saw with efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, it’s going to be difficult for the Republicans to agree on something that everyone in the party is happy with,” said Slotnick. “That said, given what happened with the Affordable Care Act and their inability to repeal it, there’s going to be a tremendous amount of pressure for them to push tax reform through.

“Since tax reform in many ways will benefit more people directly, I would look for something early 2018. The doubling of the standard deduction will be very beneficial to a majority of Americans. For individuals that itemize their taxes, generally upper income individuals, they’re the ones who are really going to have to figure out which deductions go away. But for the average American, this plan, the way it’s designed and is being sold is that the average American, middle class American, would get a tax break.”

All eyes will be on the mid-term elections in 2018.

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.,com/sharrispekin