Infrastructure would be popular bipartisan step for Clinton: Hennessey

November 8, 2016 5:58 PM EST

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. REUTERS/Carlos Barria


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By Michael Connor

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democrat Hillary Clinton as president will have no policy mandate, even if elected by a wide margin, and would be wise to court Congress for an easy win on a big-dollar infrastructure bill, an economic aide to former Republican President George W. Bush said.

Keith Hennessey, a former director of the White House National Economic Council and now professor at the Stanford Graduate Business School, joined the Global Markets Forum on Tuesday as Americans voted on a new president for the next four years. Clinton led Republican candidate Donald Trump, 44 percent to 39 percent, in the last Reuters/Ipsos national tracking poll before Election Day.

Here are excerpts from the conversation with Hennessey.

Question: You see Hillary Clinton possibly scoring an outsized victory over Donald Trump in Electoral College votes. So why wouldn't that be a mandate for her policies?

Answer: I'm sure her team will want to claim a mandate, especially if the (Electoral College vote) is high. But this has been a near-zero policy election, so it's super hard to make that case with a straight face.

Q: There is wide agreement America needs to spend much more on highways, transport, airports and other fundamentals of modern society. How should a President Clinton go about securing that?

A: She makes phone calls to (Congressional Republican leaders Paul) Ryan and (Mitch) McConnell. She invites our members to the White House to meet her. She engages with them, asks them what's important to them, and listens. She could do an infrastructure bill first. That has potential to be an easy bipartisan win.

Q: What do you expect Clinton's economic agenda to look like?

A: She has taken an Obama-like position on debt: I'm not prioritizing decreasing it, I'm not prioritizing slowing the growth of it. But I'm going to "pay for" all my new spending so my new proposals won't make the current policy path worse.

If Clinton wins the White House, I expect at most only relative modest moves on fiscal policy (probably +/- <= 1% of GDP in the short run). Nothing like the 2009 initial Obama fiscal stimulus. If that's right, I assume the Fed stays on its current track on monetary policy.

(Reporting by Michael Connor and Chris Kaufman; editing by Grant McCool)



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