Election 2016: What Happened?
Whether they were jubilant or devastated on Nov. 8, many Americans are moving on from a contentious and divisive campaign. With the votes [mostly] counted, ARSA will serve both regulated entities and government officials from across the world as they plan to work with the Trump administration and the 115th Congress.
Trump Election Creates Enormous Opportunities, Risks
By Daniel B. Fisher, Vice President of Legislative Affairs
What Donald Trump achieved on election day was both unexpected and historic. Despite unprecedented fragmentation and disunity in the Republican Party, Trump excited the base and turned out the vote. Not only did he get himself elected, but the excitement he generated drove Republican turnout across the country, helping to protect vulnerable seats and keeping the House and Senate in GOP hands.
In the wake of victory, most Republicans who abandoned Trump on the campaign trail seemed happy to fall back in line and bask in the victory. Democrats, who had bought into the conventional wisdom that they would win the presidency, Senate and perhaps even the House (always a long shot), were left with jaws agape and heads shaking.
The election results create enormous opportunity for the aviation maintenance industry. Seen at his best, Trump is a successful, entrepreneurially minded, free-market capitalist with broad business experience and a track record of success in a range of projects. His election means the rollback of regulations imposed by an unaccountable bureaucracy, tax reform and an understanding that “good safety is good business” are within closer reach. Trump has the opportunity to shatter the conventional wisdom about policymaking just as he did about electoral politics.
But there is risk as well. Trump has no track record in elected office, an unpredictable temperament and seemingly little knowledge – or interest – about policy details. While that means he’ll likely defer heavily to his deputies, it also creates uncertainty about how he’ll conduct himself both on the domestic political front and on the world stage. That uncertainty could mean economic volatility.
The Political Big Picture
Although Republicans have slightly-reduced majorities on Capitol Hill, they’re still squarely in control. The GOP will hold at least 51 Senate seats in the 115th Congress (down from 54 in the 114th) and may pick up one more depending on the outcome of the Louisiana runoff election on Dec. 10. In the House, the Republican majority was cut slightly from 246 seats to 238. That still gives Republicans a comfortable 20-seat cushion above the 218 votes needed to pass legislation.
The only defensive line left to Democrats in the policy process is the Senate filibuster. The GOP will be at least eight votes shy of the 60 needed to shut off debate. Getting key elements of the Trump agenda through will require using arcane budget rules (i.e., reconciliation) to pass legislation with a simple majority or convince/coopt/persuade/bludgeon enough Democrats to cross party lines and vote for popular policy positions.
Due to the dynamics of the now-looming 2018 congressional elections, that’s not out of the question. In two years, Democrats will be defending 25 Senate seats (if you include the two independents who caucus with Democrats) and the Republicans only eight. Nine Democratic senators will face reelection in states that Trump won. Five of those Democrats are from the heavily Republican states of Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia, all of which Trump won handily. Five others are from the major swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, all but one of which went for Trump.
Those vulnerable Democrats will come under enormous pressure from voters back home to work with Trump and the GOP majorities. But if they do, they may also find themselves subject to challenges from the far-left wing of the party, which will likely be invigorated in the wake of the 2016 elections.
The Fine Policy Brush
With that background on the political landscape, here’s our prognosis about what’s ahead in several of the issue areas that matter most for ARSA members:
- FAA reauthorization. With the current FAA extension expiring on Sept. 30, 2017, lawmakers will begin crafting a new, long-term bill early in the congressional session. The leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee and Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee are expected to remain largely unchanged, meaning reauthorization proposals could move quickly. However, T&I Chairman Shuster has indicated his continued desire to push air traffic control privatization – a non-starter for the general aviation community and many in Congress – making it very difficult to pass a major aviation bill next year.
- Trade. Trump tapped into sentiment among voters in both parties opposed to globalization and pledged to pursue more protectionist policies that could hurt international trade and undermine economic growth. Some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric, particularly his views on international trade, could indicate a skepticism toward bilateral aviation safety agreements and other international accords that permit the efficient movement of maintenance services and parts across the world. It is imperative that aviation stakeholders articulate how American companies, workers and taxpayers benefit from international aviation accords, and the global aviation maintenance network’s contributions to safe and efficient air travel.
- Regulations. Republicans have roundly criticized the Obama administration for its aggressive regulatory agenda. Gridlock on Capitol Hill has made it difficult for Congress to impose discipline and reign in the executive branch. Trump pledged to institute “a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated” (unclear how this proposal would work). He also said that on his first day in office he would impose a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety and public health). While we’re anxious at the opportunity to roll back some of the Obama administration’s worst regulations, wise industries will also be capitalizing on the opportunity to suggest improvements to regulatory regimes that are here to stay, including strengthening small business protections in the rulemaking process.
- Taxes. Trump’s election and the maintenance of the status quo in Congress make tax reform in 2017 much more likely. A once-in-a-generation tax and budget deal in the first half of next year is a real possibility. The starting point for the tax reform discussion is the GOP tax reform plan released last June. There’s a lot to like in the House GOP plan, including creating a separate 25 percent tax rate for pass-through companies, lowering the U.S. corporate tax rate to 20 percent, shifting to “territorial” system to tax U.S. companies operating internationally, and repealing the death tax. As an owner of multiple aircraft, Trump likely wouldn’t support increased general aviation taxes.
- Career Technical Education. Addressing the skilled worker shortage will be an issue in the next Congress as a matter of necessity. Substantial progress was made this year on Perkins Act reauthorization (there’s still a chance that Congress could send President Obama a bipartisan bill during the lame duck session), and Trump said on the campaign trail that in his first 100 days he would pursue a School Choice and Education Opportunity Act which, among other things, “expands vocational and technical education, and make[s] two and four-year college more affordable.” The Trump transition website’s education page says the new administration “will advance policies to support learning-and-earning opportunities at the state and local levels – where the heart and soul of American education takes place,” but provides no more specifics. This suggests an important opportunity for the business community to provide input and guide policy in this area.
- Airport Infrastructure. Trump made infrastructure a big part of his platform. More specifically, he frequently cites the need to rebuild our nation’s airports. Look for increased investment in U.S. airports to be a significant focus of the Trump administration.
There’s no doubt that 2017 will be a busy year for our industry in Washington, D.C. The association looks forward to working with its members around the country to achieve policy victories on a range of issues to benefit the aviation maintenance industry.
More Election Updates and Resources...
November 15, 2016
What Happened in the Voting Booth? – Industry Implications of Election 2016
Description: This session provides some cool-headed analysis of the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. It reviews what happened, what the results mean for aviation and transportation policy and what is next.
Instructors: Christian A. Klein & Daniel B. Fisher
Visit arsa.org/voting-booth for more information and to access the on-demand recording.
November 14, 2016
Come to the nation’s capital next March and meet with your senators, representatives and key congressional staffers. Whether you’re welcoming them or reacquainting yourself with a long-serving member, Legislative Day is the perfect time to remind them of a simple truth: They can’t fly without you.
November 9, 2016
Daniel B. Fisher, ARSA’s vice president of legislative affairs, issued the following statement on the results of the U.S. federal election:
“On behalf of ARSA, its members and the global aviation maintenance community, congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump and those men and women elected to serve as part of the 115th Congress. We look forward working with them all on commonsense aviation policies that balance the need for safety and security while maintaining operational freedom for the small-medium-sized companies that dominate the industry. For maintenance providers, good safety is good business. We’re standing by to educate the new administration and Congress about repair stations’ contributions not only to the global aviation system, but also as job creators and economic centers in communities across the country.”
On Nov. 15, Fisher and Executive Vice President Christian A. Klein will host an online training session to dissect the election results and analyze their impact on the maintenance community. For more information on this special session, visit: arsa.org/voting-booth.