After tax reform, GOP under pressure to maintain party unity

President Donald Trump speaks during a bill passage event on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, to acknowledge the final passage of tax cut legislation by Congress. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republicans ended the year on a high note, overcoming issues that previously divided the party to secure their first major legislative victory.

The GOP banded together to pass the most sweeping overhaul of the country's tax code in more than 30 years. But now the pressure is on for Republicans, the party in control of Congress and the White House, to continue to deliver in 2018.

White House senior communications advisor Mercedes Schlapp expects the party will maintain the momentum into the new year.

"Republicans realized if we stick together, work together, put our differences aside, we can really make progress," she said of the tax reform victory. "That’s what we're seeing and that’s what you're gonna see when you see next year."

Political analyst Gary Nordlinger is more skeptical and sees the majority party struggling to put forward a clear agenda.

"I don't foresee unity, that's the ironic thing," Nordlinger said. "They have this great opportunity to get things done, but they can't decide what they want to do."

With a party comprised of deficit hawks, moderates and libertarians, Nordling said it will be difficult for the GOP to hold its coalition together.

Complicating matters even further for Senate Republicans is Democrat Doug Jones' win in Alabama. The Republican majority will get small, controlling only 51 seats at the start of 2018.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted that with an even narrower majority, Republicans will need to adopt a more bipartisan approach and reach across the aisle to Democrats.

"One thing you could say about this year is it was pretty partisan," McConnell told reporters last week, acknowledging, "There's not much you can do on a partisan basis in the Senate."

President Donald Trump and Republicans have already promised a packed agenda for next year. They want to tackle infrastructure funding as well as entitlement and immigration reform.

Analysts anticipate Democrats will make major gains in the House and possibly the Senate in the 2018 midterm elections, putting a concrete timeframe on the GOP to achieve its legislative goals.

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