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Republican Convention Highlighted GOP Agenda For The Next 4 Years

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What did the Republican convention reveal about what President Trump would do with four more years? The party did not approve a new platform in 2020 other than a statement pledging allegiance to the president. But NPR's Kelsey Snell reports that you can see something of a second Trump term by looking at what happened in the first.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Republicans set the tone for their 2020 agenda by re-adopting the same platform that propelled President Trump to the White House in 2016. Longtime Trump backers like Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan say that's what voters want.

JIM JORDAN: The American people appreciate the fact that he's done what he said. You go down the list - cut taxes, reduced regulations, the lowest unemployment in 50 years prior to the virus.

SNELL: Jordan goes on to list other things like cracking down on immigration and trade. Aside from the tax cuts, the majority of those policies were done through executive actions without agreement from Congress. Jordan says a lot of future plans would hinge on more than just Trump being reelected.

JORDAN: I feel like he is going to win. And then, I think the real question is, can we take back the House?

SNELL: But chances of them winning the House are slim. And Trump's convention speech did not mention Congress, the House or the Senate. Republicans did control Congress and the White House for Trump's first two years in office. But they couldn't agree on most major issues, like spending, immigration, infrastructure and health care. And that was before the coronavirus. One area Jordan says all Republicans want to tackle is cutting spending. But budget experts say that's a longtime GOP goal that candidate Trump embraced and then largely ignored in office.

WILLIAM HOAGLAND: And I just think this administration has failed miserably in the fiscal policy arena.

SNELL: That's William Hoagland. He's with the Bipartisan Policy Center. And he's spent 21 years working on budget policy for GOP leaders in the Senate. The deficit grew from $585 billion in 2016 to nearly a trillion dollars at the end of 2019 according to the Congressional Budget Office. That spike is due in large part to policies Trump enacted before the pandemic, primarily the tax cuts Republicans passed in 2017. And Republicans showed little will to cut spending even before the crisis.

HOAGLAND: From a fiscal perspective, it's somewhat hypocritical.

SNELL: Another promise Trump has made during the convention is to continue a hard line on immigration. Immigration advocates like Daniel Garza, executive director of the Koch network group LIBRE Initiative, are holding out hope for remaking immigration policy.

DANIEL GARZA: The fixed position of the Republican Party is that they want immigration reform that comes with strong security. And the fixed position of the Democratic Party is that they want a clean DACA bill. I think there is room for negotiation. But it's going to take, I think, leadership.

SNELL: But President Trump has defied court orders to accept new applicants to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program - or DACA. And many congressional Republicans are opposed to reopening that debate. Former GOP Congressman Carlos Curbelo says if Trump is reelected, congressional Republicans must build their own policy goals.

CARLOS CURBELO: If Donald Trump is in office, it becomes - or it will remain more difficult to do that.

SNELL: Curbelo was a Trump critic before he lost in 2018. He says Republicans need to get proactive about policies like immigration reform and climate change if they hope to appeal to a younger, broader electorate.

CURBELO: And if Republicans want to capture enough of those voters to be a majority party, they have to change.

SNELL: But last week's convention showed a Republican party whose policies are bound to Trump and his plans for a second term.

Kelsey Snell, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF YESTERDAY'S NEW QUINTET'S "PRELUDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.