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Five things we learned this week about Trump’s agenda

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Mike Segar/Reuters/File

(Read caption) President-elect Donald Trump speaks at an election night rally in New York Nov. 9, 2016.

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So far President-elect Trump hasn’t been particularly specific about his legislative and policy agenda. Leaving the Capitol yesterday after meeting with Republican leaders he said only that he has “a lot of really great priorities” and that “people will be very, very happy.” 

He talked categories. His administration will move very strongly on immigration and health care, he said. Also jobs. “We’re looking at jobs. Big-league jobs,” Trump said.

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Still, important details are starting to leak out. They’re indications of the enormity of Washington’s new reality as Mr. Trump and his aides turn to the task of actually running the government. It’s months until Inauguration Day and lots of stuff might change. But here are five things that at the moment are live issues, and serious:

1. Trade pact RIP: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the free-trade deal between the US and 11 other nations that rim the Pacific Ocean, is sunk. It is almost certainly an ex-deal. It has run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, asked whether TPP would get Senate consideration prior to Trump’s inauguration, on Wednesday tersely said “no.” That seals its fate; given Trump’s oft-expressed antipathy to free-trade deals, approval in President Obama’s waning days was TPP’s last chance.

2. Medicare overhaul: House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday told Fox News Bret Baier that Medicare has “serious problems” and might need to be renovated as part of any repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

Mr. Ryan has long pushed a range of Medicare changes, including the replacement of the current fee-for-service model with one that simply subsidizes seniors’ purchase of private medical insurance.

Trump said little about this in the campaign. In general, he has been much more supportive of the current state of the nation’s big entitlement programs than have congressional GOP leaders. Thus Ryan’s comments might indicate an intraparty conflict in months to come.

3. Financial reform reform: Remember Dodd-Frank? That’s the big financial regulation bill Congress passed as a result of the financial crisis and the US bailout of big banks. The new Trump team isn’t a fan. His transition team has already promised to dismantle and replace it with “new policies to encourage economic growth,” according to a statement posted on GreatAgain.gov, Trump’s interim website.

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It’s not clear how far Trump can actually go in this regard. Banks would welcome a watering down of the powers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But outright repeal is unlikely, as Democrats still control enough Senate seats to filibuster the effort to get rid of a bill named for party icons ex-Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and ex-Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

4. Climate U-turn: Trump has called human-caused climate change a “hoax” in the past, and vowed to “cancel” last year’s Paris climate agreement, though as president he won’t really have the power to do that on his own.

Trump has said little on the subject this week but has provided one indication that he’s serious about rolling back the US effort in this area. He’s tapped Myron Ebell of the industry-friendly Competitive Enterprise Institute to lead his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Ebell is a well-known climate change skeptic. In 2007, he told Vanity Fair that even if there is a little warming of the earth “it’s nothing to worry about.” In 2013, Greenpeace included him in its list of Climate denial’s “continental army.”

“More recently, Ebell has called the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan for greenhouse gases illegal and said that Obama joining the Paris climate treaty “is clearly an unconstitutional usurpation of the Senate’s authority,” according to Scientific American magazine.

5. Jobs – for Trump supporters: Trump’s new GreatAgain transition website also features a “help wanted” advertisement. It notes that more than 4,000 political appointees will be rotating out the door as part of the change in administrations in January, and that the Trump team needs to work quickly to line up replacements.

“Finding qualified people to fill these jobs is an enormous undertaking, but it is critically important to making the federal government work effectively for the American people,” said the post.