Trump presidency poses challenges, opportunities for South Florida lawmakers
Questions about Donald Trump presidency priorities
South Florida lawmakers — re-elected amid voters' national rebuke of Washington, D.C., politics — head back to work facing the unknown of a Donald Trump presidency.
Will Trump lead as the wall-building, Obamacare-killing, Muslim-banning presidential candidate or the more measured post-election version of Trump calling for unity?
Among the bipartisan issues South Florida lawmakers say could gain favor under a Trump administration: Help for small businesses, military funding, laws to target human trafficking and improvements such as expanding Port Everglades.
There's room for compromise on everything from health care to immigration if Trump isn't beholden to "a laundry list of right wing, conservative Republican policies," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Weston.
"If he is going to come out of the gate guns blazing, trying to roll back the progress we have made the last eight years ... then the wall he is going to face is a wall of opposition from Democrats in Congress," Wasserman Schultz said. "What we aren't going to stand for are policies that fly in the face of American ideals and values."
Even Republicans may not know where they stand with soon-to-be President Trump, who clashed with party leaders during his campaign.
Sen. Marco Rubio during his failed presidential campaign was an outspoken critic of Trump – who dubbed Rubio "Little Marco."
Rubio, a Republican from West Miami, went on to win re-election to the Senate, endorsing Trump for president but staying away from Trump campaign events in Florida.
"It's been a long, tough and hard-fought election, but President-elect Trump struck the right tone ... by asking the country to come together," Rubio said in a statement released the day after the election. "Whether you voted for him or not, he will soon be our president and our nation can only be successful in the years to come by helping him succeed."
While Democrats in the election lost the White House and failed to get control of the Senate, Republicans still don't have a filibuster-proof majority.
And during the campaign, Trump differed with fellow Republican and House Speaker Paul Ryan. That raises questions about how much of Ryan's conservative agenda — stymied by President Barack Obama's veto power — will be embraced by Trump.
"The big difference is, we always knew we had a president who was going to veto a lot of this stuff," said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat from West Palm Beach. "We don't know with Trump. He is unpredictable."
Pushing for more funding for Everglades restoration and help to tackle Lake Okeechobee drainage that pollutes coastal waterways are issues that a President Trump – who is a part-time Palm Beach resident – should support, Wasserman Schultz said.
But cutting Medicare, privatizing Social Security or repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with nothing to replace it are issues expected to generate a fight from Democrats.
"We want the president to succeed ... but that doesn't mean that some of the policies the extreme right wing in Congress has advocated for should move forward," said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Boca Raton. "Access to health care should be available to all."
There can be common ground on health care if Trump and Republicans in Congress focus on fixing the Affordable Care Act, "rather than taking away health care from 20 million people," Wasserman Schultz said.
Repealing Obamacare, she warns, could "force us back to the dark ages" when insurance companies could deny coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions.
Wasserman Schultz said it's "very hard to judge or anticipate" what Trump is going to do.
Lack of cooperation leading to Congressional gridlock is one of the reasons for voter "disgust with Washington," Frankel said. She plans to help lead the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues.
Frankel said she remains "in total mourning" about Hillary Clinton losing the presidential election, but is heading back to Congress "trying to find something to work together on" with Republicans.