President Trump announces his intent to propose a budget, the Senate confirms four more Cabinet positions, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- President Trump reportedly announced his intent to propose a budget to Congress which would increase military spending by $54 billion, and offset that increase with cuts to domestic programs—including a reported 24 percent cut to the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—and foreign aid, but which is expected to leave Social Security and Medicare funded at steady levels.
- The Senate confirmed four of President Trump’s nominees for Cabinet positons. Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor, was confirmed to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce by a vote of 72-27; Representative Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), a former Navy SEAL, was confirmed as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior by a vote of 68-31; Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and former candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, was confirmed by a vote of 58-41 to be the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Rick Perry, a former Texas governor, was confirmed by a vote of 62-37 to serve as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.
- In a major speech before both houses of Congress, President Trump touted his Administration’s “historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations” and its institution of “a deregulation task force inside of every government agency.” President Trump repeated his support for his so-called two-for-one deregulation plan—which entails the elimination of two existing regulations for each new one—and specifically targeted coal industry regulations.
- President Trump issued an executive order instructing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the Clean Water Rule, which was issued by those agencies during the Obama Administration with the intent of clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act and which is currently stayed after a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The executive order, which is the first step in what is expected to be a very lengthy process to rewrite the rule, instructs EPA to rewrite the rule so that the definition of navigable waters is consistent with the standard set out by Justice Scalia in the 2006 case Rapanos v. U.S., rather than following, as the current rule does, the more expansive standard defined by Justice Kennedy in that same case.
- In a shift in policy from the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which is currently involved in litigation with Texas over that state’s voter identification law, made a motion to drop the argument that Texas enacted the law with discriminatory intent—something that it is necessary for opponents of the law to prove if they wish to see a judge place Texas back under “preclearance” under the Voting Rights Act, and require the state to have any changes it made to its voting laws be approved by the DOJ before going into effect.
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act by a vote of 240-185. The bill would create a nine-member commission that would be tasked with reviewing rules and identifying those that could be repealed.
- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions—in his first speech since his confirmation—reportedly signaled that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will be less active in monitoring civil rights issues at local police agencies than it was under the Obama Administration. Attorney General Sessions reportedly expressed concern that federal oversight has harmed police departments’ “effectiveness,” but also denied that the change in policy is “mean or insensitive to civil rights or human rights.”
- The U.S. House of Representatives again invoked the Congressional Review Act, voting 231-191 to repeal a 2016 rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that extended to five years the period during which companies can be penalized for failing to disclose workplace injuries and illnesses.
- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a final rule adding ten substances to Schedule I—substances “defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”—of the Controlled Substances Act. The ten substances are all types of “synthetic cathinones”—colloquially known as “bath salts.” The rule follows a long campaign by government agencies to crack down on the popular substances since President Obama signed a ban on the drugs in July 2012.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- According to a recent report from The Hill, a large number of companies—more than 220, including well-known firms like Caddell and Raytheon—have reportedly expressed interest in building a border wall with Mexico that has been a central feature of the Trump Administration’s agenda. Some estimates have reportedly suggested that the wall could ultimately cost as much as $21.6 billion. The Hill reports that further documentation will be required from companies interested in bidding on the project later this month.
- The Heritage Foundation released Prosperity Unleashed: Smarter Financial Regulation, a framework for replacing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. In Prosperity Unleashed, the Heritage Foundation rejects the idea that “deregulation in financial markets, beginning in the 1990s,” was the cause of the 2008 financial crisis, and lays out a set of ten principles for regulating the financial markets, suggesting, among other things, that the “government should not interfere with the financial choices of market participants,” and that “[m]arket discipline is a better regulator of financial risk than government regulation.”
- Writing for Brookings, University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor David Skeel discusses the implications if Congress were to repeal Dodd-Frank’s resolution rules, which give the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) funding when the FDIC takes over a troubled systematically important financial institution. Skeel argues that, contrary to the views of many opponents of the resolution rules, repealing them could make “true bailouts more likely, rather than less.”