December 30, 2017 - 9:41 pm
WASHINGTON — A shift in the political landscape in 2017 begins with the dizzying domination of the news cycle by President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, the reckoning of sexual harassment allegations, tragic mass shootings and the stumbling governance of Republicans in Congress.
The Russia investigation, the tumultuous turmoil at the White House and Trump’s Twitter attacks on Republicans for failing to repeal Obamacare all took center stage during a year that ended with a final legislative victory for Republicans who passed a tax-code overhaul that will add $1.4 trillion to the national debt over a decade.
Trump’s presidency also created a seismic shift in the once-dormant licensing process to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, just 90 miles from the world tourist destination of Las Vegas.
But the year also will be remembered for horrific mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, that reignited a national debate on gun laws and the focus on little-known devices called “bump stocks” used in the attack that left 58 people dead on the Strip.
1 Trump takes office
After a divisive election year that cleaved the nation, Trump was sworn into office Jan. 20 and painted a dire picture of the country in his inaugural address. He pledged to make “Make America Great Again.” Trump shook up the presidency, using his Twitter account to speak unfiltered to supporters without media interpretation and attacking adversaries with blistering blasts that often dominated the news cycle and clouded the official message from the administration.
2 Fight over Obamacare
After gaining control of the House, Senate and White House, Republicans stumbled out of the gate in 2017 with their signature pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The House initially passed a version of repeal legislation, but the Senate failed to follow suit when several GOP senators defected. Republicans later crippled the Obamacare program when it passed a tax reform bill that eliminated a mandate that everyone purchase insurance or face an IRS penalty.
3 Russia investigation
After the U.S. intelligence community concluded Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election, several investigations were launched to determine possible links between the Kremlin and Trump aides and associates. After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the investigation. To date, two people — including former national security adviser Michael Flynn — have pleaded guilty to crimes while two others were indicted on a variety of charges.
4 Tax cut plan
Republicans handed Trump his first major legislative victory this month when it passed a sweeping tax-cut package that slashed tax rates on corporations, businesses and individuals. The tax code overhaul is the most sweeping in 30 years, and Republicans argue it will provide sustained economic growth that will create jobs and raise wages. Democrats say Republicans looted the U.S. Treasury to reward corporate interests and wealthy GOP donors. The bill is expected to be a central issue in next year’s congressional elections.
5 Immigration issues
In a nod to his political base, Trump took aim at U.S. policies on illegal immigration, calling for a physical wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border and ending Obama-era policies that protected children brought to this country illegally from being deported. In the first month of his presidency, Trump also signed executive orders that banned travel from seven mostly Muslim nations, a move that sparked protests and court challenges.
6 Sexual harassment
The #MeToo movement and charges of sexual harassment swept through Capitol Hill in 2017. Trump and politicians in both major political parties were named as offenders. Allegations of sexual misconduct forced Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to announce his resignation. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., also stepped down. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., and Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, announced they would not seek re-election.
7 Supreme Court appointment
The first major political skirmish in 2017 was the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, appointed by Trump to fill a vacancy following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Seating a conservative justice did not alter the ideological balance of the court, but Senate Democrats, smarting after Republicans failed to hold hearings on President Barack Obama’s pick for the court, fought the Gorsuch nomination. He was confirmed on a 54-45 vote.
8 National monuments
Almost immediately after taking office, Trump announced his challenge to presidential authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act that allows the designation of national monuments to protect public lands. Trump ordered a review of all presidential declarations going back two decades. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has since recommended rollbacks to four monuments, including Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada and two in Utah.
9 Yucca Mountain
In 1987, Congress designated Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the nation’s repository for nuclear waste produced by power plants. President Barack Obama, at the behest of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., later defunded the program. The election of Trump, however, signaled a reversal as his administration sought $120 million to restart the licensing application process with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
10 Gun control
The politically divisive debate on gun control was reignited Oct. 1 when a gunman equipped with at least 12 semiautomatic rifles with “bump stock” devices fired into a crowd of concertgoers on the Strip. Republicans and Democrats joined in calling for a ban or tighter regulations on the devices, which accelerate the rate of fire to mimic an automatic weapon. To date, however, Congress has yet to pass legislation dealing with bump stocks.