Big Agenda Facing Presidential Winner

As of this writing, we don’t know who has won the 2020 presidential election.  Whoever wins, America’s next chief executive has many important policy decisions to make in the coming weeks.  Here’s a preview of some of the big issues that the president will have to confront over the next four years:

Health Care 

Health care will be a top of the president’s agenda for the next term.  Progressives are already planning to reintroduce their costly Medicare-for-All plan, which would outlaw private health insurance.  “We’re not giving up on that struggle.  We’re going to introduce Medicare-for-All,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said just before the election on a webinar with members of “The Squad.”  Facing a likely Republican U.S. Senate, and a U.S. House with Republican gains, it’s unlikely that the Sanders approach will go anywhere, but what actions Congress takes on Obamacare are indeed up in the air.

The Supreme Court may also move health care up the priority list.  Next Tuesday, the Court will hear a long-awaited case challenging the legality of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act.  As PRI’s Sally Pipes wrote for Fox News during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for new Justice Amy Coney Barrett, “President Trump has been calling for the repeal of Obamacare since his 2016 campaign.  Democrats fear Barrett may give him the vote on the Supreme Court he needs to overturn the law.”

The Supreme Court will have to determine whether the individual mandate is unconstitutional, as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.  If so, justices will have to rule whether the mandate can be “severed” from the rest of the Affordable Care Act.  If not, then the entire law would be ruled as unconstitutional – setting off a political earthquake in Washington.


Environmental policy was one of the hot issues in the presidential debates, especially whether fracking should be permitted in states like Pennsylvania.

California is often cited as a national leader on environmental policy.  The state also could provide a preview of coming attractions for the different approaches to energy policy.

PRI’s Wayne Winegarden documented in his 2018 study Legislating Energy Poverty that California’s approach to energy – relying on big government energy mandates – increased electricity and gasoline costs for working class and minority communities.  In contrast, states that embraced fracking like Ohio and West Virginia were doing a much better job lowering emissions than California without increasing costs.  By taking an alternate course and enacting free-market energy policies, Winegarden estimates in his recent study Legislating Energy Prosperity that Californians could save more than $2,000 annually.

A likely Republican majority in the U.S. Senate and Republican gains in the U.S. House make it unlikely that any “Green New Deal”-type policies will pass.  The course charted by the president on the environment over the next four years, perhaps by executive order, will have a significant impact on America’s energy independence, economic competitiveness, and cost of living for millions of Americans.

School Choice

During the COVID-19 crisis, school choice options – including charter schools, homeschooling and digital learning options – have proven invaluable to parents seeking to ensure their children were well educated even during a global pandemic.  But as PRI’s Lance Izumi has written, blue state governors including Gov. Gavin Newsom have taken advantage of the crisis to advance an anti-charter school, anti-school choice agenda.

The president’s education agenda over the next four years will be largely shaped by who serves as Education Secretary.

The differences in philosophy couldn’t be starker.  Speaking of the growing popularity of online charter schools during the pandemic, Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in an October PRI webinar with Izumi, “these choices and these options have got to be protected and frankly expanded for families because the demand is there.”

Meanwhile, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and former National Education Association president Lily Garcia are reportedly on the cabinet short lists for former Vice President Joe Biden, ensuring an administration that will be openly hostile to charter schools and choice.  How those nominees would fare in a likely Republican U.S. Senate is another question.

Worker Freedom 

The future of work has been one of the most hotly-contested issues in California in recent years.

Kerry Jackson has written extensively about the controversial Assembly Bill 5, and the debate over who is an employee and who is an independent contractor.  California’s new law has complicated efforts by many Californians who lost their jobs during the COVID-19-fueled recession to earn a living from home.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the historic Janus decision by the Supreme Court, disaffected public employee union members now have the freedom to quit their unions.

The president could have a significant impact on the future of these two issues over the next four years.  The Trump administration has been steadfast in its support of worker freedom and related policies.  In contrast, Democrats in Congress approved a federal version of AB 5 in Congress earlier this year, and can be expected to push similar legislation next year.  In addition, Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been making a push to become Labor Secretary – and would surely use the platform to push back against Janus and worker freedom efforts.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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