The various GOP presidential hopefuls, like all politicians since time immemorial, have made a lot of promises this campaign season. Here are some of the things they've vowed to do if they make it to the White House.
Reverse action on climate change.
Republicans across the board have sworn to roll back the country's efforts to mitigate climate change, despite polls showing that a majority of Americans are in favor of addressing the problem. First to go would be the Clean Power Plan, which the Environmental Protection Agency announced in August. The plan would cut carbon emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and enable the U.S. to meet its current commitments to the United Nations.
Every GOP candidate running for president has come out against the Clean Power Plan. Even former New York Gov. George Pataki, who has supported other measures to rein in climate change, told Bloomberg in August that the Clean Power Plan “is a classic top-down, government-imposed solution" that will "result in higher costs of energy [and] an increase in the vulnerability of the electrical supply, and I think it's just completely wrong.”
Other candidates have taken a harder line against the Clean Power Plan, and indeed against all executive actions taken by President Barack Obama.
“If you live by the pen, you die by the pen,” Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) told The Washington Post in June for an article about what his first 100 days would look like. So there's that.
After two years of sign-ups following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, more than 16 million people now have health insurance who didn’t have it before. But every GOP candidate except Ohio Gov. John Kasich has promised to repeal Obamacare -- though for the most part, they've been pretty vague about what would take its place.
“[I'd] figure out a way to repeal Obamacare,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said at a roundtable in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, this May, responding to a question about actions he’d take in his first 100 days. “I think repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a 21st-century consumer-directed, patient-driven health care insurance system has to be a high, high priority.”
Deport, deport, deport.
Last year, Obama bolstered the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and initiated a new one: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. These actions would defer the prosecution of childhood arrivals to the U.S. for two years and allow the parents of any U.S. citizen or resident to live and work in the country without fear of deportation -- meaning that 6.3 million U.S. citizens wouldn’t have to see their families dismantled.
But the Republican presidential candidates have opposed this, for the most part characterizing it as executive overreach, a la Cruz, who called the measure “patently unconstitutional.”
Real estate mogul Donald Trump has been the most aggressive candidate on immigration. He has repeatedly promised that his plan to lead the forceful removal of 11 million immigrants, reminiscent of a 1954 program called “Operation Wetback,” would be done in “a very humane way.” Experts say that’s not possible.
Make America "great" again, and make China a loser.
On Trump’s campaign website, the candidate promises to take swift action against China for not playing fair: “On day one of the Trump administration the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China as a currency manipulator.”
Democrats like Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) would rejoice. He and many in Congress agree that China’s intervention in the world’s currency market is stifling U.S. exports and costing the country millions of manufacturing jobs.
China deliberately devalues its currency -- which should be traded at the highest rates, because it’s in greatest demand by all the countries that need to buy China’s exports in the local currency -- by using its massive reserves to buy up U.S. dollars. This lowers the supply of the dollar compared to the Chinese yuan, which makes U.S. exports more expensive, and therefore tougher to sell.
The U.S. trade deficit “has increased by $200 billion to $500 billion per year as a result,” according to a 2012 report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “The United States has lost 1 million to 5 million jobs due to this foreign currency manipulation.”
Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund declared China’s currency “fairly valued.”
Remind Congress that it's super important for everyone to get along.
In response to a question about how his first three months in office would be unique, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson said at a National Press Club event that he would call a joint session of Congress to address hyper-partisanship in the legislature, stressing the importance of Judeo-Christian values.
“We've gotten to the point where we believe that if somebody disagrees with you, then you need to try to destroy them, destroy their family and their livelihood,” Carson said. “Where did that come from? I guarantee you, it did not come from our Judeo-Christian values and roots.”
Wage yet another war against same-sex marriage.
This summer, a week after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he would not accept the ruling.
"I reject this decision and will fight from 'Day One' of my administration to defend our Constitution and protect religious liberty," Huckabee said of the Supreme Court's ruling in a press release.
On his website, Huckabee promises to push for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Those efforts would likely be a waste of time, since a constitutional amendment requires a two-third majority in Congress -- or in a state vote -- and same-sex marriage currently enjoys record-high support among Americans.
Roll out the red carpet for Wall Street, and let them wipe their feet on consumers.
Everyone in the GOP field has promised to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, which put into place a package of Wall Street regulations following the 2008 financial meltdown. Dodd-Frank also established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to act as an arbiter for the public in the face of unscrupulous business practices.
In July, Carson wrote in a Washington Times op-ed that the CFPB is “the ultimate example of regulatory overreach, a nanny state mechanism asserting its control over everyday Americans that they did not want, did not ask for and do not need.”
For what it's worth, the CFPB has secured over $10 billion in relief for consumers since its creation in 2011. It's currently addressing the student debt crisis by suing for-profit colleges for fraud and taking on the country’s largest student loan company for allegedly cheating borrowers.
Reduce college student loan debt by discouraging liberal arts degrees.
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who has voted consistently against Dodd-Frank and the CFPB, said in November that within his first 100 days as president, he would deal with the student debt issue by adjusting the academic accreditation system to incentivize low-cost training of professions like welding, rather than philosophy degrees, for example.
Renege on the Iran deal.
GOP candidates Rubio, Cruz, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) have all promised to immediately undo an international agreement that lifts financial sanctions on Iran in exchange for constraints on uranium enrichment programs meant for the development of atomic weapons.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the deal in September, Fiorina said the first thing she'd do in the Oval Office would be to make two phone calls. The first would be to reassure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of America’s support. The second would be a message to Iran’s supreme leader: “Until you open every nuclear and every military facility to full, open, anytime, anywhere, for-real inspections, we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around the global financial system."
End mass government surveillance?
Rand Paul's staunch opposition to the government collecting metadata from U.S. citizens is one reason the Kentucky senator may not win the Republican nomination in a time of heightened concern over national security. To date, he’s been the only person in the field who's argued that privacy should win out.
“The president created this vast dragnet by executive order,” Paul said at the beginning of his campaign. “As president, on day one, I will immediately end this unconstitutional surveillance.”
Boost cybersecurity, somehow.
Carson has said he would prioritize tightening cybersecurity, although he's been less specific about it than some critics would like.
“We must immediately harden our electrical grid and have multiple layers of alternative energy,” Carson told The Washington Examiner in September. “That's critical ... We also must beef up our cyber capabilities both offensive and defensive.”
Keep former lawmakers from going straight to K Street.
Pataki has taken a strong stance on eliminating the “revolving door” between lawmakers and lobbyists, though he's in the minority as far as actually making this a campaign issue.
In September, Pataki said he would “propose a law on day one" of his presidency: "You serve one day in the House or Senate, there’s a lifetime ban on you ever being a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.”
Invade Chinese airspace with Air Force One.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would solve U.S. challenges with China by flying Air Force One over military installments in the South China Sea to show them “we mean business.”
At the undercard GOP debate in November, Christie said this would be the first thing he would do when it comes to China -- surely a smart way to establish a good rapport with the United States' primary trading partner.
Send Vladimir Putin a message -- that we're gonna keep doing what we've been doing.
Fiorina pledged at a town hall meeting in August to address the threat of Russia by "rebuild[ing] the 6th Fleet," a part of the U.S. Navy that conducts operations in Europe and Asia. But as Vox's Ezra Klein points out, the 6th Fleet doesn't actually need rebuilding. In fact, most of what Fiorina has promised to do regarding Russia in her first 100 days, including starting military exercises in the Baltic States and putting more troops in Germany, are things the Obama administration is doing or has already done.
Balance the budget, by sheer force of will.
Never fear! Amid all the flurry, Kasich has promised he'll manage to balance the budget, using... methods.
"I spent my entire lifetime balancing federal budgets, growing jobs, the same in Ohio. And I will go back to Washington with my plan. And I will have done it within 100 days, and it will pass, and we will be strong again,” Kasich said during an October GOP debate. “Thank you."
No, governor, thank you.