Business euphoria over Trump gives way to
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[January 18, 2017]
By Patrick Rucker and Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Early optimism among
business lobbyists and executives that Donald Trump's election heralded
better days has slowly given way to uncertainty as the president-elect
fires off mixed and sometimes confusing messages on healthcare, taxes
An initial euphoria in the business world fueled a powerful
post-election stock rally. Some of that has frayed as questions arise
over the nuts and bolts of Trump's campaign promises, although many in
the business community said they remain optimistic.
Doubts deepened over the weekend as Trump declared he would replace
President Barack Obama's signature healthcare plan known as Obamacare
with "insurance for everybody" - a goal far beyond Republican designs -
and criticized a key component of a plan in Congress to overhaul
"It is fair to say that since the election, there has been mounting
uncertainty about exactly what the specific policies are likely to be
with regard to tax reform and replacing Obamacare," a financial industry
Expectations for faster growth, tax reform and a quick repeal of
Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, have "given way
to 'We are not really sure what he means by that'," the official said.
A veteran Republican financial lobbyist said she is under constant
pressure from clients to predict what the new administration is
planning, but she has no reliable answers for them.
WRENCH IN OBAMACARE REPEAL
Trump appears to have thrown a wrench into Republican plans to repeal
Obamacare with mixed signals on the details and timing of a replacement
Congressional Republicans have focused on limiting government
involvement in the healthcare system and eliminating the law's
individual mandate that forces people to have insurance.
But Trump told the Washington Post he was almost done with a plan to
replace Obamacare with "insurance for everybody" while forcing drug
companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices for
Medicare and Medicaid.
Trump's recent attack on the border adjustment tax was another sign of
his unpredictability, the veteran financial lobbyist said.
That measure would tax imports and exempt exports in an effort to
encourage companies to keep jobs and production in the United States.
But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday, Trump called
the proposal "too complicated."
"Anytime I hear border adjustment, I don't love it," Trump told the
Journal. "Because usually it means we're going to get adjusted into a
bad deal. That’s what happens."
Chris Krueger, an analyst at the investment firm Cowen and Co, said
Trump's comments to the newspaper about the border adjustment proposal
"Trump is like a policy bull who seems to bring his own china shop with
him to destroy it with every interview," Krueger wrote in a research
Lobbyists said the Trump transition team's lack of interest in their
input was clear in the last two weeks as it summoned trade groups to
daily "listening sessions" at the American Enterprise Institute think
tank. The agriculture, financial, transportation and tech industries are
among the sectors that got a one-hour session, according to
In the sessions, Wall Street lobbyists were encouraged to talk fast: a
giant television screen overhead counted down two minutes of allotted
[to top of second column]
President-elect Donald Trump speaks to diplomats and guests at the
Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) Chairman's Global Dinner in
Washington, U.S. January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
"It was a goat rodeo. We all got a couple minutes to speak. What can
you really say in that time?" said another financial services
lobbyist. "They wanted to check the box - 'We’re listening to Wall
Street'. But who even knows where these transition people will be in
a few days?"
Lobbyists also have been alarmed that the transition team has not
included them in preparations for confirmation hearings for many
nominated Cabinet officials, including potential Treasury secretary
"If you want someone to explain how Elizabeth Warren can hammer you
12 different ways, ask a lobbyist," said the financial services
lobbyist, referring to the Massachusetts senator who is a frequent
critic of Wall Street.
Even Trump's website sowed confusion about his intentions. A promise
to dismantle the Dodd-Frank regulatory reforms was removed at the
end of last year and has not been replaced. A Trump spokesperson
blamed a redesign, but bank lobbyists are not so sure - other
content made it through the redesign.
Some companies have been reassured by Trump’s Cabinet nominees, who
are seen as more predictable and supportive of the business
establishment than the impulsive president-elect.
Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, has deep
differences on values with the technology sector, but is seen as an
important Trump counterweight because he is a “deliberate
decision-maker not prone to big dramatic mood swings,” a source at
one major Silicon Valley firm said.
Many lobbyists and business officials said they remain optimistic
and cautioned against reading too deeply into tweets or comments
that Trump makes on policy.
“If Obama or Bush opined on a policy ... most of Washington assumed
that raising that question was a well-vetted intentional decision to
send a signal,” a senior U.S. Chamber of Commerce official said.
Trump, by contrast, may simply be raising policy issues because he
has questions on them, the chamber official said.
The same financial industry official who acknowledged the uncertain
climate also said he remains optimistic.
"There were a lot of candidates who were interviewed. There were
names floated out there and ... it was kind of a chaotic process,"
the official said, referring to the process of picking candidates to
fill Cabinet and other administration positions. “But overall, I
think one can make the observation that in making the final
selections, Trump has shown ... a very surprising even-handedness."
(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley and Dustin Volz;
Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Bill
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