U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, wasn't an early supporter of presidential candidate Donald Trump, but he's excited for the opportunities that might be available for the country with a President Donald Trump.
"I'm an optimist," he told this page Monday morning before returning to Washington, D.C. "I want to see the country move forward and for us to succeed as Americans."
Fleischmann hopes not only for the passage of meaningful legislation that would improve the lives of citizens but also for a more cordial legislative process.
Citizens "are tired of partisan bickering," said the former Chattanooga attorney, now in his fourth term. "They want us to do the people's business."
A blueprint for how that business could get done will get hammered out in a Republican retreat in Philadelphia the week after Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20.
Fleischmann said the current plan is to use the budget reconciliation process twice in the same year, a plan possible only because the House and Senate did not pass a fiscal 2017 budget. During reconciliation, controversial policies may be considered without the possibility of a filibuster.
The passage of the fiscal 2017 budget in late winter, for instance, could include the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. The passage of the fiscal 2018 budget much latter in the year, then, could include tax reform legislation that will be worked out among the president, the Senate and the House.
"Things in the House will be easier," Fleischmann said, referring to a Trump presidency in general. "There's a tremendous sense of optimism in Republican circles."
The GOP lawmaker said none of the president-elect's off-the-cuff pronouncements or Twitter rants worry him. Instead, he said the openness the president-elect displayed in a conversation with members of Congress put him at ease.
Fleischmann said, for example, Trump told them he had 11 names on a list of possible selections for the open U.S. Supreme Court seat. However, he said, Trump encouraged them to forward other names they believed should be considered.
And, he said, the president-elect "has surrounded himself with good, capable people — people who understand the issues." Selecting people like Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a former member of the U.S. House, and others from the House and Senate "gives him the best opportunity to achieve" because they are people "who understand the [congressional] process."
Whether it's the heavyweight issues of the Affordable Care Act and tax reform or the relatively minor issue — at least to the wider country — of funding for the replacement Chickamauga Lock, Fleischmann believes Republicans can approach 2017 with optimism.
"We'll have a more friendly ear, a set of goals more proportionally in line [with the president]," he said.