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5 things that could change fast if Trump loses

Rick Newman
·Senior Columnist
·6-min read

Watch: The policies Trump could drop if he loses

A new administration in Washington, D.C., always brings a change in priorities and new policies. But if President Trump loses to Joe Biden in November, it could trigger a more abrupt turnabout than usual.

Some Trump policies come straight from the president’s own preferences and ideas, with little institutional support within either party. If Trump isn’t around to push them, nobody will. Biden has identified many ways he would alter the Trump agenda, largely through legislation or executive action after he’d take office next year. But some things could change sooner. Five areas to watch:

Stimulus negotiations. Trump says he’d be fine with a new stimulus bill totaling $2 trillion, close to the sum Congressional Democrats are seeking. But Trump would probably change his mind if he loses. A massive new stimulus program would obviously benefit Trump before the election, since he could claim credit for aid headed to millions of voters falling behind on their bills. But Trump has been lukewarm about more stimulus all along, at one point even calling off negotiations until after the election. He quickly changed his mind, yet Trump will have little to gain by pushing a big stimulus bill after the election, whether he wins or loses.

The next stimulus bill now depends completely on the outcome of the election. If Biden wins and Democrats seize the Senate, for total control of Congress, they could pass a bill as large as the $2.4 trillion package the House passed in May. That’s probably why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been slow-rolling stimulus talks all fall. An outcome that leaves Republicans with control of the Senate or the White House, or both, will probably result in a much smaller package, since Senate Republicans are only willing to go as high as $500 billion or so. With the election pressure off, they might not even go that high.

The Google antitrust case. Trump has bashed Google for discriminating against conservatives (without evidence), so it’s worth asking whether his administration’s new antitrust suit against the search giant comes from Trump’s personal animosity toward the firm. Eleven states, all with Republican administrations, joined the Justice Dept. suit, giving the case a partisan tinge. Attorneys general in several Democratic states say they, too, may sue Google for anti-competitive behavior, but with a different focus.

Regulators have been probing Google’s market power since the Obama administration, and there’s bipartisan interest in curtailing the company’s heft. But a Biden administration could take a different approach. The Trump administration suit focuses on Google’s near-monopoly of online search. Some Democratic regulators favor a broader effort that could focus on splitting apart units such as YouTube, the Google search engine, and other divisions. It’s also possible Democratic states reluctant to join a Trump administration lawsuit might be more eager to join a Biden suit, making any antitrust suit against Google more imposing. Still, any such suit is likely to wind on for years, and Google could prevail.

Campaign signs for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris stand with signs for U.S. President Donald Trump on a hillside in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 21, 2020.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Campaign signs for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris stand with signs for U.S. President Donald Trump on a hillside in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 21, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The TikTok-Oracle-Walmart deal. Trump this year threatened to ban the popular Chinese-owned app TikTok unless an American company bought it. Oracle and Walmart made a deal to purchase the social-media service from Chinese parent ByteDance in September, but the Chinese government hasn’t yet approved that. If there’s no deal, the Trump ban is supposed to go into effect Nov. 14, 11 days after the election. It’s a safe bet the Chinese government is holding out to see who wins. If it’s Trump, China might have good reason to approve the deal. But if Biden wins, China could scotch the purchase, rolling the odds on what Biden might do. Trump himself might even throw in the towel and rescind his ban if Biden wins, since Trump tends to lose interest in issues once he no longer has a stake.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) Supreme Court case. The High Court is due to hear a case seeking to invalidate the entire ACA one week after Election Day. The plaintiffs are several Republican-led states, but the Trump administration has joined them in seeking to kill the law. If Biden beats Trump, the federal government’s position on the case is certain to change, since Biden and most Democrats are strong supporters of the ACA. So if Biden wins, the court will hear the case in November fully knowing the federal government will switch sides in the case once Biden takes office. More than that, if Biden wins and Dems take the Senate, they should be able to pass a change to the 2010 law that would render the Supreme Court case moot, and therefore preserve the ACA. Again, the court would know this is coming when it hears the case on November 10, but it wouldn’t happen until early 2021. That alone could weaken the plaintiffs’ case, which is why a Biden win dramatically improves the odds of the ACA remaining intact.

The Trump tariffs. Trump has imposed tariffs on about $355 billion of imports from China and other countries, in an unsuccessful effort to direct more manufacturing back to the United States. Some overseas producers have moved to other low-tariff countries, but not back to U.S. shores. Biden probably won’t eliminate the Trump tariffs right away if he wins, but he’ll start a new course on trade emphasizing alliances and a multilateral approach to containing China, rather than Trump’s combative, go-it-alone strategy. China and other trade partners are preparing for this, which means Trump’s trade reforms will probably start to unravel quickly if Trump loses. Trump has already indicated he’s given up on a “phase-two” trade deal with China, originally due in 2021. Biden will probably use Trump’s tariffs as leverage to gain other concessions, but expect optimism on trade to surge as Trump exits. The challenge for Biden would be keeping the optimism going, if he takes office.

Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential tip line: rickjnewman@yahoo.com. Encrypted communication available. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.

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