The Trump Administration: Week 1

2017-02-01 13:16:20 by T4N
Arsenal Education 

The Trump Administration: Week 1 And so it begins. Donald Trump taking the oath of office. Source: Wikimedia It’s important that everyone stays informed as to the goings-on in politics, especially under a Trump presidency, but it’s easy to get drowned in all the noise of who’s done what and who said what inflammatory thing this time. So to help keep afloat and stay sane, each week I’m going to compile a list of all things under and relating to the Trump administration for that week. This will include government actions (executive, legislative, judicial), anything notable that has happened in the political sphere, and anything notable happening within the Trump administration. In an attempt to stay as neutral and objective as possible, I’m going to avoid taking one-sided views on these issues. This undertaking is as much to help me as it is to help everyone else. For a while I’ve been following politics, mostly from a leftist perspective, and I want to have a way to keep up with what the government is doing in the least biased way possible. I’ll likely try this for about a month or so and see how it goes. N.B.: For legislation, I won’t cover bills that are introduced or pass one chamber unless they are of note, since there are quite a lot of them (over 1000 bills have been introduced so far), but I will definitely cover bills that passed both chambers and were presented to the President and especially those signed into law. Also, Congress has been in session since January 3rd (making this week 4), so I’ll just catch up on the most notable stuff since then. If you want to keep up with these happenings yourself, Congress.gov provides RSS feeds for bills sent to the House floor, the Senate floor, and to the President, and press releases on executive action are on Whitehouse.gov . I use Feedly to keep track of these. Government Legislation H.R. 39 was signed into law on Jan. 20th. Known as the Tested Ability to Leverage Exceptional National Talent (TALENT) Act of 2017, this bill, signed by Obama, codifies provisions in Executive Order 13704 , which establishes the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program. The program aims to “encourage successful entrepreneurs, executives, and innovators to join the Federal Government and work in close cooperation with Federal Government leaders, to create meaningful solutions that can help save lives and taxpayer money, fuel job creation, and significantly improve how the Federal Government serves the American people.” It is the last bill Obama has signed as President. S. 84 was signed into law on Jan. 20th. This bill allows the first (and only) person after the enactment of this bill nominated for Secretary of Defence to be appointed as an exception to the seven years of relief from active duty (by 10 U.S.C. 113 ), reducing the limitation to three years. Obviously this was intended to allow the Senate to confirm Gen. James Mattis, which they did in a 98–1 vote. Mattis is not the only person to be granted this exception; in 1950, Gen. George Marshall was on active duty when he was nominated so he needed the same waiver. H.R. 72 was presented to the president on Jan. 23rd. The short title is the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Access and Oversight Act of 2017. It amends 31 U.S.C Chapter 7, Subchapter II by authorizing the GAO “to obtain federal agency records required to discharge the GAO’s duties (including audit, evaluation, and investigative duties), including through bringing civil actions to require an agency to produce a record.” H.R. 175 was introduced in the House on Jan. 3rd , at the start of the Congressional session. The ObamaCare Repeal Act seeks to do exactly what it title states: repeal the Affordable Care Act. S. 106 was also introduced in the Senate on the 12th , seeking to do the exact same thing. Neither bill has passed a chamber yet. Two GOP senators have revealed their replacement health care legislation: the Patient Freedom Act of 2017, but it has not been introduced to Congress yet. Sen. Rand Paul has also unveiled his replacement plan. H.R. 586 was introduced in the House on Jan. 17th. The Sanctity of Human Life Act declares that human life begins at fertilization, at which time the fertilized egg is given the same rights and privileges of personhood as every other human. This bill would presumably establish the grounds for equalizing abortion with the taking of a human life. Some fear the bill would ban most forms of birth control. The bill was also introduced in the 114th Congress as H.R. 426 as well as the two Congresses before it, but did not get any further. H.R. 21 passed the House on Jan. 4th. The Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017 is a proposal to allow Congress to review regulations that federal agencies have submitted within 60 days of a session in the President’s final year in office. Rather than consider one procedure at a time, this bill would allow Congress to disapprove regulations en masse. H.R. 69 passed the House on the 4th. The Thoroughly Investigating Retaliation Against Whistleblowers Act modifies sections of the US Code dealing with whistleblower protections. This bill was previously introduced in the 114th Congress as H.R. 4639, but failed to pass the Senate. H.R. 71 passed the House on the 4th. The Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to list inventory for programs from federal agencies for which more than $1 million of the agency’s annual budget is allocated. H.Res. 11 passed the House on the 5th , condemning UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (“Israel’s Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law”). It calls the resolution an obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine and a strain on US-Israeli relations. The US abstained from voting on this resolution while the other 14 countries voted for it. Former Secretary of State John Kerry said the only path to peace is a two-state solution, making Jerusalem the capital of both states. He also criticized the Israeli government, calling it “the most right-wing in Israel’s history”. Following the adoption of the UN resolution, Trump opposed the vote: The House voted 342–80 to pass H.Res. 11. H.R. 309 and H.R. 315 both passed the House on the 9th. These bills amend the Public Health Service Act . The former establishes a commission to propose solutions dealing with federal programs that support clinical care for certain types of diseases. The latter requires the Health Resources and Services Administration to identify areas with a shortage of professionals in maternity health care. H.R. 5 passed the House on the 11th. The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 aims to, as the official title states, “reform the process by which Federal agencies analyze and formulate new regulations and guidance documents, to clarify the nature of judicial review of agency interpretations, to ensure complete analysis of potential impacts on small entities of rules, and for other purposes.” H.R. 7 passed the House on the 24th. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, as it’s aptly named, prohibits federal funding from going to any abortions or any health plans (including those subsidized by the Affordable Care Act) that cover abortions. It also bans federal health care facilities and employees from performing abortions. Representatives who spoke on the House floor in support of this bill compared abortions to infanticide. In 1976, the House passed the Hyde Amendment, a measure which bars the use of federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman. It has not been signed into law, but this bill would do just that. In Title II of the bill, it also modifies the section of the Internal Revenue Code concerning credit for coverage under a qualified health plan by disqualifying any plans that cover abortions, so that no credit is issued for the plans’ premiums. An individual can still purchase such a plan or separate coverage for abortions, but credit for those plans would not be allowed. This bill also passed the House in the 114th Congress, but did not go any further. H.R. 255 passed the House on the 24th. The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act allows the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support entrepreneurial programs for women in STEM. Congress found that women make up less than a quarter of the STEM workforce while making up half the general workforce and that only 26% of women with STEM degrees work in those fields. These combined with an increase in demand for leadership in STEM fields and the mission of the NSF to support women in STEM have prompted the introduction of this bill. H.R. 321 passed the House on the 24th. Similar to H.R. 255, The Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act directs the administrator of NASA to encourage women to study in STEM fields and pursue a career in aerospace. H.R. 589 passed the House on the 24th. The Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act establishes policy for the Department of Energy for R&D programs and reform technology transfer programs among other things. H.R. 600 passed the House on the 24th. The Digital Global Access Policy (GAP) Act of 2017 states that it is US policy to close the digital gap in developing countries, including expanding Internet access and infrastructure and protecting human rights online. Executive Action Executive Order 13765 was signed on the 20th. The order seeks to “minimize the economic burden” of the ACA pending its repeal. The heads of executive departments are directed to delay any implementation of the ACA that would pose a fiscal burden to a state or any entity in the healthcare field, including individuals and families. The order also seeks an open healthcare market across states. A presidential memorandum was signed on the 20th freezing any pending regulations until they are expressly approved by “a department or agency head appointed or designated by” Trump. All regulations are subject to this delay except for those allowed by the Office of Management and Budget director dealing with health, safety, financial, or national security matters. Essentially, no regulation can be put into effect until it is approved by an agency led by a Trump appointee. A presidential memorandum was signed on the 23rd directing the US Trade Representative to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among 12 countries to deepen economic relationships by reducing tariffs and promote trade amongst the countries. It required all 12 countries to ratify it before it could be in force, but so far Japan is the only country to have done so. Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe said a TPP without the US would be “meaningless”. Sen. John McCain criticized the order, saying it is a “serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for America’s economy and our strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region.” Criticisms of the TPP include a lack of transparency in negotiations as well as extending copyright law. The memorandum also notes the intent of the Trump administration to negotiate trade deals on a one-to-one basis. A presidential memorandum was signed on the 23rd reinstating the Mexico City Policy. Originally established by President Reagan, it requires non-governmental organizations to agree to “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” It has also been called the “global gag rule” since it bars any US foreign aid from going to NGOs that perform or discuss abortions. A presidential memorandum was signed on the 23rd ordering a hiring freeze for all executive departments and agencies for 90 days, within which the Office of Management Personnel will recommend a plan to reduce the federal government’s workforce. Except for military personnel, no vacant positions existing at noon on the 22nd may be filled (except in limited circumstances). White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the order, saying it was done to “respect the American taxpayer” by reducing “duplicative” jobs in government. Various groups and unions have denounced the move, saying it is unlikely to save money, decreases efficiency by creating backlogs, and privatizes services Americans expect to come from government. An executive order and four presidential memoranda ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ) were signed on the 24th regarding infrastructure in the United States. The order declares US policy to identify, streamline, and expedite high priority infrastructure projects in the United States. It directs the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality to determine whether projects should be deemed “high priority” to the nation’s general welfare. One memorandum signed invites TransCanada to re-submit a permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and accelerates construction. The KXL pipeline must also seek approval from states TransCanada plans to traverse in its construction. Another memorandum resumes and accelerates construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, despite major protests against it. Construction of the DAPL is nearly complete. While the pipelines further the United States’ energy independence in bringing more crude oil to the market, they would do so in the midst of protests over the pipelines’ risk of polluting the rivers it traverses and disrupting the lives of indigenous peoples. The third memorandum linked here directs the Secretary of Commerce to “ develop a plan under which all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired, or expanded pipelines, inside the borders of the United States, including portions of pipelines, use materials and equipment produced in the United States, to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law” within 180 days. The fourth memorandum directs executive agencies to expedite reviews of and approvals for the construction and expansion of manufacturing facilities in the US. An executive order was signed on the 25th regarding immigration. The order declares that “sanctuary jurisdictions”, i.e. areas in which state and local law officials do not cooperate with federal immigration officials, violate federal law, claiming that they cause “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.” It also limits federal funding going to such areas, orders sanctions to be placed on countries that do not accept deported undocumented immigrants, and orders a weekly-updated list of “criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens”. Earlier that day, WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing: “We’re going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants. The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws.” The mayor of Miami-Dade was the first to pull the county’s “sanctuary” status in accordance with the order the following day. Mayors of cities such as Boston and Chicago stood in defiance of the order, calling it an attack on those who live there. NYC mayor Bill De Blasio threatened to sue the administration over the order. An executive order was signed on the 25th directing executive agencies to begin planning for the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border, as well as take other actions against illegal immigration into the US. The promise of a wall along the southern border was the cornerstone of Trump’s campaign, along with the promise of getting Mexico to pay for the wall. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned the order, saying that Mexico will not pay for such a wall, as doing so divides the two countries. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell estimated the wall would cost somewhere between $12 billion and $15 billion, while some researchers have placed the estimate at around $25 billion. Nieto canceled an upcoming meeting with Trump as a result of this order and of Trump suggesting that it be canceled if Mexico does not treat the US “with respect”. Trump and the House GOP floated the idea of imposing a 20% tariff on imported Mexican goods to force Mexico to pay for the border wall’s construction. An executive order was signed on the 27th concerning the US refugee program as well as immigration. Most notably, the order bans immigration from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, and indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the US. These countries have a Muslim majority. The order also suspends all refugee entries for 120 days, and directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to compile a list of countries that do not provide enough information for the US to vet immigrants from which foreign nationals will be banned from entering. Green card holders from the listed countries will require rescreening to enter the US. The order has sparked protests throughout the country. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued the Trump administration on behalf of two Iraqis with immigrant visas who were detained at an airport, and a judge has blocked deportation of detained individuals. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is also planning to sue on the 30th. Several tech companies have expressed grave concern , and the order has prompted Google to recall some of its staff. A presidential memorandum was signed on the 27th directing Defense Secretary Mattis to review the military’s readiness for 30 days, as well as to conduct a review on the military’s missile defense and nuclear arsenal. Mattis must also, within 60 days, submit to the President a plan to improve readiness by FY2019. Two presidential memoranda ( 1 , 2 ) were signed on the 28th. The first directs Defense Secretary Mattis to draft a plan to defeat ISIS and submit it within 30 days. Guidelines for the plan include strategies to delegitimize “radical Islamist ideology”, identifying “coalition partners” to aid in the fight, and severing ISIS’s financial support. The second reorganizes the National Security Council to make it more focused on cyber-warfare, as well as grants some Trump appointees to attend NSC meetings. An executive order was signed on the 28th regarding ethics in executive agencies. It requires every appointee in every executive agency to sign an ethics pledge barring them from lobbying for an executive agency within 5 years after termination of their employment. It also bars them indefinitely from lobbying for a foreign government or foreign political party. This was one of Trump’s campaign promises. Drafts of three other executive orders were reportedly leaked to Vox concerning the repeal of the DREAMer program, a limitation on legal immigration, and immigrant benefits in addition to the ban on immigration from 7 countries, which was signed on the 27th. Vox was originally given six documents, but they believe the source to be legitimate since Trump signed two executive orders that matched the drafts they had received verbatim. Judicial Trump has announced in a tweet on the 25th that he would make his pick for the Supreme Court on Thursday, the 2nd of February. Reports seem to have narrowed Trump’s shortlist down to three candidates: Judges Neil Gorsuch, William Pryor, and Thomas Michael Hardiman. Gorsuch appears to be the frontrunner. Similar to the late Antonin Scalia, he supports interpreting the Constitution in its original meaning, known as originalism. He has also been a critic of “executive overreach”, something the GOP has criticized the Obama administration for doing through executive action. Trump said he would support removing the Senate filibuster if the Democrats filibustered the SCOTUS nominee hearing, saying “we have obstructionists”. Administration and Staffing Gen. James Mattis was confirmed on the 20th to be the Secretary of Defense. Mattis retired from the US Marine Corps in May 2013. On his first day at the Pentagon as Secretary, he oversaw 31 airstrikes on the Islamic State. Gen. John F. Kelly was confirmed on the 20th to be Secretary of Homeland Security. Kelly retired from the US Marine Corps in 2016. Kelly criticized the construction of a wall along the southern border, saying a physical barrier alone will not be very effective. Michael Pompeo was confirmed on the 23rd to be Director of the CIA. Pompeo steps in as Director in the midst of a strained relations between the CIA and the Trump administration. Nikki Haley was confirmed on the 24th to be the United States representative to the United Nations. Haley was previously the governor of South Carolina, stepping down after her confirmation. Several have pointed out her lack of experience in foreign policy, and others, such as Sen. Ben Cardin, have commended her track record in South Carolina. On Friday the 27th, Haley said “for those that don’t have our back, we’re taking names, we will make points to respond to that accordingly”. The senate committee vote on Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education was postponed to the 31st. A second hearing request filed by Senate Democrats was denied. Several Democrats and a few Republicans have criticized DeVos for being unqualified for the job. Senators Bernie Sanders and Al Franken were among the heaviest critics. Republicans such as Jeb Bush have backed her. Several thousand calls were made to Senate offices to halt DeVos’ confirmation. The entire senior administrative team of the State Department unexpectedly resigned on the 26th. Trump has nominated former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State and is awaiting Senate action. Please recommend and share this article if you appreciated it and notify me of any discrepancies or any stories I’ve neglected that should be put up here. This is meant to be a sane place to keep track of what the Trump administration and Congress has done throughout the week, so any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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