While President Donald Trump may be having trouble getting his big legislature bills through Congress (like TrumpCare and the immigration ban), he’s been signing a slew of bills into law that will affect many people.
Many of these have quietly gone through, but they can have just as big effect on people’s lives as the major ones that have gotten the bulk of the media spotlight.
These range from dropping regulations to overturning internet privacy protections. The last one didn’t get a whole lot of press attention, but it’s a pretty controversial one as it allows your internet provider to share all personal data (including your web browsing history) and sell it to the highest bidder without your permission.
See below for all the latest bills signed into law and Executive Orders from April and March of 2017. As it’s a very large amount of signing Trump has done, we’re breaking it into two articles as there’s plenty for you to dig through.
Presidential Memorandum 20: A Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate [Regarding the 6 April 2017 Missile Strikes on Syria’s Shayrat Military Airfield]
What It Will Do: This measure fulfills a presidential duty to inform Congress of Trump’s exercise of executive war powers—in this case, the recent missile strikes on a Syrian airfield. It explicitly states that this strike, because it was intended to dissuade chemical weapons usage or proliferation, improves regional security and thus serves the national interest.
Who It Will Affect: This just reasserts the claimed legality of such a strike under US statutes and makes clear that Trump may consider further actions in Syria.
Presidential Proclamation 21: [Proclaiming] April 14, 2017, as Pan American Day and April 9 Through April 15, 2017, as Pan American Week
What It Will Do: This is another routine action, commemorating a holiday observed in several states in the Americas since 1930 at the behest of the governing board of the Organization of American States (then the Pan American Union). It marks the anniversary of the First International Conference of American States and dialogue amongst the nations of the Western Hemisphere. Trump used this year’s proclamation to stress the importance of improving border security and fighting international crime through dialogue with other American nations.
Who It Will Affect: Trump’s choice of focus in this year’s proclamation may strike many other celebrating nations as uncomfortable, given his hostility towards nations like Mexico over these issues he now claims will be improved through comity and conversation. The president’s nationalism, in general, does not gel well with a day of international identity and collaboration. But like all proclamations, this one is pretty meaningless.
Presidential Proclamation 22: [Proclaiming] April 9, 2016, as National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day
What It Will Do: Another regular presidential duty, this day of observance has been declared annually since 1987 to honor the sacrifices and allegiances of more than half a million Americans captured and held as prisoners of war since the American Civil War. This year Trump’s proclamation focuses on commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March.
Who It Will Affect: This routine proclamation also sounds odd coming from the Trump administration, considering the president’s campaign-trail mockery of Senator John McCain, who endured five and a half years of torture while imprisoned during the Vietnam War. Anyone who can get past that awkwardness can commemorate former POWs as they see fit.
Presidential Proclamation 20: [Proclaiming] April 7, 2017, As Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A.
What It Will Do: This is a routine action carried out by presidents annually since 1978. It honors the life and works of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson(1902-1994), who helped to accelerate and more widely disseminate Jewish teaching and outreach throughout the latter half of the 20th century as the leader of the Brooklyn-based Lubavitcher movement. (Because it is tied to Schneerson’s birthday on the Jewish calendar, 11 Nisaan, the Julian date of the proclamation wanders around.) More broadly, the day usually serves to respect the role of families, schools, and religious and civic institutions in fostering values in children.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who knows and respects the work of Rabbi Schneerson will appreciate this commemoration, and can celebrate it as they see fit.
Presidential Proclamation 19: Honoring the Memory of John Glenn
What It Will Do: This action instructs all federal, military, and naval facilities and grounds to fly their flags at half-staff on April 6, the day of the late John Glenn’s internment.
Who It Will Affect: All who knew and appreciated Glenn, the iconic astronaut who became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962 and the oldest astronaut to go to space in 1998, will appreciate this measure of respect. The former fighter pilot and senator from Ohio died in December at the age of 95.
HR 1228: To Provide for the Appointment of Members of the Board of Directors of the Office of Compliance to Replace Members Whose Terms Expire during 2017, and for Other Purposes
What It Will Do: A fairly routine measure, this allows members of the body mentioned in the title (a bipartisan board that enforces the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995) to continue serving past their current terms until their replacements can be named. It also outlines the terms for their replacements.
HJ Res 69: Providing for Congressional Disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of the Final Rule of the Department of the Interior Relating to “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska”
What It Will Do: Yet another application of the Congressional Review Act, this measure nullifies a late Obama-era rule that came into effect in September. This rule dealt with the hunting of predators that eat species like caribou or moose on federal wildlife refuges in Alaska. Among other things, it banned predator control on the 16 federal refuges in the state (about 76 million acres of land), and limited the circumstances in which bear cubs, wolves, or coyotes could be killed. Now that rule is scrapped.
Who It Will Affect: Republicans have painted the nullification of this rule as a win for states’ rights—namely the right of Alaskans to determine how they use land in their own state. Their rhetoric has also indicated they believe this will benefit subsistence hunters and indigenous communities. (This rule explicitly made exceptions for indigenous traditional practices.) Critics of the move that it will empower Alaska to enact unscientific policies ramping up the killing of predators.
HJ Res 83: Disapproving of the Rule Submitted by the Department of Labor Relating to “Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness”
What It Will Do: Another utilization of the Congressional Review Act, this nullifies a late Obama-era rule enacted in December and put into effect earlier this year. That rule sought to shore up a long-standing Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy of fining or citing employers with more than a certain number of employees if they failed to make and maintain reports of work-related illness, injury, or death within five years of an incident. The policy had been challenged by a 2012 legal case that limited the agency’s ability to penalize companies for inadequate record-keeping to within six months of a violation. This new rule tweaked and clarified the old policy’s language to address existing legal concerns.
Who It Will Affect: Proponents of the rule’s nullification argue that it was yet another example of federal overreach which did nothing to help worker safety but instead created an undue bureaucratic burden on companies, who can now thrive and focus their energies on actual safety issues. Opponents of this measure argue that OSHA has limited staff and cannot detect all violations of record-keeping responsibilities within six months, which will make it harder to enforce good record-keeping, in turn dampening their ability to detect company- or industry-level patterns of worker risk and respond to them accordingly.
S.J. Res. 34: A Joint Resolution Providing for Congressional Disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of The Rule Submitted by the Federal Communications Commission Relating to “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services”
What It Will Do: Another application of the Congressional Review Act, this measure nullifies a late Obama-era rule, this one set to go into effect at the end of 2017. This rule required that internet service providers (ISPs) supply customers with clear and accurate privacy notifications; obtain customers’ consent to share their data (including browser and app usage history) with other parties; and notify customers, law enforcement, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of data breaches. It also bars ISPs from making services contingent on surrendering privacy rights and obfuscating that special deals are require the abdication of the same.
However the rule is not totally novel—it was just needed because in 2015 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assumed authority over ISPs from the FTC, meaning that FTC rules no longer applied and new FCC rules were needed. This new FCC rule set was in many ways similar to the FTC rule. Still, this new rule would have notably put a higher barrier on the sale of consumer browsing and app usage data, requiring users to opt into that arrangement at an ISP’s request rather than opt out of it as per the FTC rules.
Who It Will Affect: Because this rule set was not in force yet (and ISPs have largely been operating on a pledge to abide by old FTC standards until a new rule evolves or the old rules come back in force), this measure has no immediate effect. However it sends a strong signal about the government’s consumer privacy priorities to all of America’s internet users. The Republicans who pushed this measure through insist that ISPs should be returned to the FTC’s rule framework, claiming that body is both better equipped to police privacy and that it is unfair to treat ISPs differently than other Internet-based companies that traffic in consumer data.
Critics point out that ISPs are not like other internet-based companies. They have a bird’s-eye view of our entire internet traffic history that can reveal intimate details even through metadata, and that consumers (especially those who can’t pick from multiple ISP providers) have few tools to fight back against this sort of monitoring of data, save adopting aggressive personal privacy protocols. That could be a serious issue as ISPs look to increase their data trafficking practices; it could even give them an unfair advantage over their competitors. Critics also note that switching back to an FTC rules framework will be difficult thanks to a 2016 court ruling stating that companies with both phone and ISP services (like many ISP providers) cannot be regulated by the FTC.
Presidential Memorandum 19: For the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service
What It Will Do: This memorandum is actually just the cover sheet for a document entitled “Principles for Reforming the Military Selective Services Process,” the text of which does not accompany the public copies of this action. That report was ordered produced by the president’s office in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which (confusingly) was enacted in December 2016. It specifies that the report should focus on methods to increase participation in military, national, and public services (especially that related to national security).
Presidential Proclamation 18: [Proclaiming] April 2 through April 8, 2017, As National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
What It Will Do: This action creates a one-off week in which Trump says his government will recommit itself to law and order governance and empowering the victims of crimes. He flaunts his developing Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement (VOICE) initiative as a symbol of this devotion, rehashing not only his inaugural’s “American Carnage” tone but his conviction that governance is all about security and that immigration leads to insecurity and financial loss. He also includes some conspiratorial language about how the media and special interest groups have silenced the voices of victims of immigrant crime in the past and how he will stop this. However the proclamation stops short of detailing any new moves team Trump will take to recognize and support the victims of crime at large or how citizens can observe the week.
Executive Order 21: Regarding the Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits
What It Will Do: Ostensibly the first step in a long-term strategy to radically rewrite American trade policies and deals with other nations, this order instructs the secretary of commerce and the US trade representative to author the report named in its title within 90 days. The report will focus on analyzing America’s standing with over a dozen trade partners with whom the US had a deficit in 2016, searching for any practices that could be considered cheating or intellectual property theft and any imbalances in current deals. (In other words, anything that its authors determine might go against the interests of America.) It will also examine particular imports or types of trade practices that may be detrimental to American interests.
Who It Will Affect: It’s unclear whether the report will yield any new insights, as numerous federal institutions already issue regular analyses of American trade. This report may just be a more comprehensive and concentrated shot of information. The report indicates the Trump administration’s conviction that America’s trade deals flat-out do not work (a far from foregone conclusion). This has spooked some observers, who believe it could signal the start of an impending trade war as Trump takes his signature hacksaw approach to a complex issue. This will also complicate Trump’s relationship with China: Despite the administration’s assertions that this order is not focused on China, it’s the source of the vast majority of America’s trade deficit, engages in some suspect practices (which previous administrations have called out), and is a favorite rhetorical punching bag for Trump.
Executive Order 22: Providing an Order of Succession within the Department of Justice
What It Will Do: This order basically negates Trump’s 12th executive order, which itself supplanted a late Obama-era decision on the line of succession for the US attorney general in the event that the deputy and associate attorneys general and any other designated successors are not able to serve. This order leaves the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia first in line in that eventuality, but replaces the US attorneys for the Northern District of Illinois and Western District of Missouri with the US attorneys for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Northern District of Texas. It is unclear why team Trump wanted to make this wonky move.
Executive Order 23: Establishing Enhanced Collection and Enforcement of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties and Violations of Trade and Customs Laws
What It Will Do: Trump’s second overhyped trade-related order in one day, this measure also represents a call to consider a course of action rather than an actual action. It instructs Homeland Security, the Treasury, the Department Commerce, and the US trade representative to develop a plan within 90 days to fight “dumping,” the practice of foreign companies unloading goods at low prices in another country. It also orders the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection to develop a plan within 90 days to better enforce measures against pirated or counterfeited materials entering the American trade stream. Federal legal authorities are also instructed to come up with recommendations on how to better prosecute significant trade law offenses in the near future.
Who It Will Affect: Although this order is a little more concrete than the day’s previous trade-related order, it is still just talk right now. These measures are less likely to spark concerns of a trade war at least, as they mostly concern enforcing laws already on the books. However, given how tiny a slice of US trade these violations account for, cracking down on them likely will not have a notable effect on American trade or the wider economy. This order will likely needle China, complicating relations between the two countries.
HR 1362: To Name the Department of Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Pago Pago, American Samoa, the Faleomavaega Eni Fa’aua’a Hunkin VA Clinic
What It Will Do: Exactly what the bill’s title says.
Who It Will Affect: This rapid act to memorialize one of American Samoa’s most prominent modern politicians, who died in February, will likely be appreciated by many of his constituents and colleagues. Hunkin served as the territory’s representative in Congress for 13 straight terms (1988 to 2014) before losing to a challenger, and previously served served as the territory’s attorney general and lieutenant governor for several years. He was one of the first to enlist in the territory’s freshly established Army Reserve unit in 1980.
HJ Res 42: Disapproving the Rule Submitted by the Department of Labor Relating to Drug Testing of Unemployment Compensation Applicants
What It Will Do: The eighth application of the CRA, this measure nullifies a rule finalized in August by the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The rule was developed in reaction to a 2012 law amending the Social Security Act; the point was to define which jobs regularly require drug tests (as this was not specified in the text of the law), further clarifying limits on the categories of people seeking unemployment benefits that states could test themselves.
Who It Will Affect: Republicans claim this rule, shot down on party lines, overreached in limiting states’ rights to determine their own lists of jobs that regularly require drug testing. So we won’t know for sure who is affected until states redefine their interpretations of the law. This will likely lead to more people being drug tested for unemployment benefits, a longstanding policy goalof Republicans. (There’s a lack of hard evidence that this would be beneficial, and would likely make it harder for some people to get back to work.) The revocation of this rule has been rigorously opposed by civil rights and labor organizations, which see the inevitable expansion of drug testing for unemployed individuals as an arbitrary stigmatization of poor people.
Presidential Proclamation 12: [Proclaiming] April 2017 As Cancer Control Month
What It Will Do: As with many proclamations, this is a routine presidential action (dating back to the 1930s) meant to honor those who’ve been killed by cancer, celebrate survivors, and recommit the nation to providing care and finding a cure. (It’s light on specifics on that last point, though.) It highlights both American advances in cancer treatment and the continued suffering the disease causes.
Presidential Proclamation 13: [Proclaiming] April 2017 As National Child Abuse Prevention Month
What It Will Do: Another routine action (dating back to the 1980s), this one renews the government’s commitment to stopping child abuse by raising awareness of the issue and publicizing steps to safeguard children by reporting concerns and providing families at risk of abuse with help. It honors families, foster and adoptive parents, child protective workers, and other community members who can play a role in family life. It also contains a whole lot of language about the primacy of the family as a social unit that must be preserved.
Presidential Proclamation 14: [Proclaiming] April 2017 As National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
What It Will Do: A routine proclamation from 2001 onwards, this action aims to highlight the issue in its title and to reaffirm federal dedication to providing prevention and victim support services. Trump uses the text here to trumpet a task force he convened under the US attorney general on reducing crime as a substantive measure towards these ends. He also calls for more community and youth engagement to change social norms that condone sexual assault.
Who It Will Affect: Coming from a man who’s been accused of assaulting over a dozen women and who has bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” in the past, this routine action will come off as bitterly ironic to many. Trump’s attempt to paint this as a law and order issue he’s already tackling seems especially vapid and tacky in that context. But at the very least, those who don’t already think about this issue can use actual resources other organizations put out for this month every year to educate themselves.
Presidential Proclamation 15: [Proclaiming] April 2017 As National Financial Capability Month
What It Will Do: This action aims to highlight the reality that the majority of American households don’t have savings for emergencies or college tuition. A third of Americans lack retirement savings while others with them worry they will not be sufficient to support them later on. It’s a real issue that deserves pointing out. But the rest of the proclamation emphasizes how Trump’s other executive orders will supposedly somehow empower Americans to save for retirement and build wealth. It also stresses the belief that educating people on how to save is the key and a sufficient tactic for improving this chronic financial instability.
Who It Will Affect: To anyone struggling to save, the notion that they just need to learn tricks and make more of an effort will likely be insulting. But anyone who wants to search out more tips and tricks or who needed a nudge to consider these issues can do so this month.
Presidential Proclamation 16: [Proclaiming] April 2017 As National Donate Life Month
What It Will Do: A routine proclamation for the past 14 years, this action seeks to raise awareness of America’s organ and tissue donor systems and the amount of good a single donor can do.
Presidential Proclamation 17: [Proclaiming] April 2, 2017 As World Autism Awareness Day
What It Will Do: This action seeks to highlight current knowledge on the causes of and the search for treatments for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and to help people get an education on how to identify ASDs early in a child’s life. It commits the US government to the search for a cure to autism.
Who It Will Affect: This is one of Trump’s more substantive and worrying proclamations to date. It’s uncomfortable in part because it sets the federal government on the pathologizing side of a debate on whether to view autism as a “disease or difference.” But more so, it highlights Trump’s longstanding lean toward the anti-vaccination movement based on widely discredited reports that vaccinations have been linked to a spike in autism diagnoses. This suggests that those who do not see autism as a disease in need of a cure, but rather a different mode of engaging with the world that society needs to work with are in for a rough four years (at least). Those who believe in evidence-based scientific approaches are also in for a rough ride under the Trump regime. But we knew that already.
SJ Res 1: A Joint Resolution Approving the Location of a Memorial to Commemorate and Honor the Members of the Armed Forces Who Served on Active Duty in Support of Operation Desert Storm or Operation Desert Shield
What It Will Do: A Desert Storm and Desert Shield service memorial has been in the works for about seven years now; its development was initiated by the private sector, and it will be funded through some $25 million in private donations and funds. Legislation authorizing the creation of the memorial on federal lands (in Washington, DC) passed through Congress in 2015. This new measure just approves, as a matter of procedure, the ultimate choice for its placement within the city—near the national mall.
Who It Will Affect: This measure moves a long-sought goal of recognition of those veterans one step closer to reality. These operations (in 1990 and 1991) are too often treated as a historical footnote—a prelude to modern American military entanglements in the Middle East. Remembering this conflict is a reminder of America’s historic commitment to intervening on behalf of friends and allies (like Kuwait during its occupation by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) and role in forming international defensive coalitions (like the 33-nation coalition that collaborated in these operations) in an era of increasing discord and isolationism.
Executive Order 20: Establishing the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis
What It Will Do: This is Trump’s attempt to make good on one of his core campaign promises: tackling the opioid epidemic that is killing thousands yearly and has ravaged many of his core constituencies especially badly. He’s chosen to tackle it via government’s favorite mechanism: a commission, which will apparently be answerable to presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. The commission is tasked with studying federal spending on addiction treatment and overdose reversal, reviewing best treatments in addiction prevention and services, and reviewing federal programs for their scope and effectiveness. The upshot is that it will issue a report by October, then likely be disbanded.
Who It Will Affect: Trump has been praised for taking a public health–based focus in the order, indicating he wants to avoid law-and-order crackdown solutions. His pick of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—who has personal experience with the epidemic and has passed some of the strongest evidence-based, public-health-focused opioid-related laws in the nation—has also been praised.
But beyond that, many observers were disappointed by the move, which they read as weak medicine at best and a cynical bid at rebranding prior findings under the Trump banner for good optics while possibly actually making the crisis worse. These critics note that the commission is likely to waste half a year rehashing issues already comprehensively reviewed in a November 2016 surgeon general’s report and March 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on prescription opioid access. Experts believe there is already broad consensus on the need for more funding for treatment services—an acceleration of the late Obama-era unlocking of over $1 billion in funding for such services, rather than an effort to re-invent the wheel on best practices.
Skeptics point out that Trump’s budget proposals have actually focused on stripping funding from agencies vital to providing health services and resources while his healthcare repeal and replacement bill would have taken away treatment services from millions. Additionally, they say, Trump seems preoccupied with using his border wall and crackdown as a key anti-drug addiction tactic (although this would not affect the flow of many opioids even if the wall did succeed in limiting traffickers), while neglecting to appoint key drug control and treatment officials in federal agencies.
S 305: Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This act literally just amends a line of the US Code to encourage the display of the American flag on National Vietnam War Veterans Day—March 29.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who needed a nudge to put out a respectful flag once a year, I suppose.
Executive Order 19: Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth
What It Will Do: This is a doozy of an order, packing a number of long-awaited Trumpian environmental initiatives into a single far-reaching action.
It starts with a general call for federal agencies to review any policies that could burden the development of domestic energy resources (namely coal, natural gas, nuclear energy materials, and oil) and within 180 days submit a plan to suspend, revise, or revoke them. (This follows a number of other efforts by Trump and his Congress to slash regulations.)
Then comes an entire section ordering the EPA to review the 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP), an ambitious Obama-era initiative aimed at reducing power plant emissions by 32 percent by 2030, and several related rules—the idea being, again, to work to strip regulations. Five other rules are also slated for review, all of which govern oil and natural gas production and the resulting on- or off-site waste and emissions. Trump seems to want to make it easier for energy companies to extract resources from federal lands and operate less-than-green power plants.
Trump can’t unilaterally revoke rules, but he can take back Obama’s actions. In this order, Trump rescinded a 2013 order urging government bodies to help the nation prepare for the effects of climate change. He also stuck down three memoranda and two executive reports from the Obama administration that were intended to lay out a roadmap to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and push the country to work on preparing for climate change. Also gutted was a guidance on how federal agencies should factor greenhouse gas emissions into their projects and actions. Trump also disassembled a federal body convened under Obama that had issued reports on how to price carbon emissions in calculating the cost of federal initiatives. Trump is, as much as possible, telling the federal government not to worry about climate change.
Finally, this order scraps a Department of the Interior order from 2016 geared toward reevaluating and eventually retooling the program for leasing federal lands out for coal extraction; he seemed especially interested in ending the moratorium on new coal leases. Basically, Trump is looking to make it easier to mine federal lands for coal.
The new order notably does not withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, as many environmental advocates had feared it might. But the other aspects of this order mean that it will be very difficult, or impossible, for America to meet its goals under that agreement, functionally voiding it.
Who It Will Affect: Trump and his allies claim this order will effectively balance environmental concerns against the need to achieve job and energy security in America—with a focus on ostensibly reviving tens of thousands of jobs in coal country by ending a supposed Obama-era “war on coal.” (He signed the order while surrounded by coal miners.) They also bill it as an effort to give states the ability to manage their own resources. While this action may open up a few mining operations along seams in places like Idaho and Wyoming and extend the life of coal-fired power plants, though, critics (and even some within the mining industry) argue that coal will still struggle to compete with cheaper and more efficient fuels. But Trump promised to bring back mining jobs, and this is his attempt to do that.
The blow to the CPP drew a great deal of media attention, but it has been stalled in the courts since 2016 and was never fully implemented, so the effects of its review will be minimal. That goes for just about every regulation put under review in this order, even those already in full effect, as that process is incredibly time-consuming and can easily be held up by court actions or sustained outcry from the public or advocacy groups. However, the bid to neuter these rules is a clear indication that team Trump will focus on the costs rather than the benefits of environmental actions moving forward. It also backs up a reality the administration has hedged on and danced around for some time: It’s full of myopic climate science deniers.
Trump’s backtracking on guidelines for evaluating the cost of carbon and considering climate change’s effects in government projects could have a real and immediate impact on, for example, a long-term viable infrastructure plan. It could also put Trump into conflict with individuals like Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has openly stated that climate change should be considered when making decisions.
HJ Res 37: Disapproving The Rule Submitted by The Department of Defense, The General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Relating to The Federal Acquisition Regulation
What It Will Do: This is the fourth Trump-era application of the Congressional Review Act to invalidate an Obama-era rule (and just the fifth time the CRA has ever been used). That rule hadn’t come into effect yet, but it would have required all major government contractors to disclose any contested or confirmed violations of certain federal or state labor laws over the previous three years (not counting any before the rule came into effect). Although sometimes erroneously labeled as a “blacklisting rule,” this regulation would have meant that these violations would simply be taken into account by the agency hiring contractors.
Who It Will Affect: As the rule was not yet enacted in full, its nullification technically affects no one. According to the rule’s opponents, its implementation would have imposed unnecessarily upon businesses by creating a regulatory barrier versus just enforcing existing labor laws. Others would call the rule a way to incentivize companies that want to do business with the government to follow the law. Either way, this is another pro-business measure pushed through by Republicans.
Executive Order 18: The Revocation of Federal Contracting Executive Orders
What It Will Do: This action revokes two Obama executive orders and a section from a third. The first of those orders laid the groundwork for the Obama-era rule that Trump and Congress nullified via the House Joint Resolution 37 (see above). Essentially, this was Trump scorching the earth for any requirement that potential federal contractors provide details on contested or confirmed worker’s rights violations, beyond the limitations on new rules similar to the one eliminated by the CRA.
Who It Will Affect: Pretty much the same people affected by HJ Res. 37.
HJ Res 44: Disapproving The Rule Submitted by the Department of The Interior Relating to Bureau of Land Management Regulations That Establish The Procedures Used to Prepare, Revise, or Amend Land Use Plans Pursuant to The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976
What It Will Do: The fifth Trump-era application of the Congressional Review Act, this measure nullifies an Obama-era rule put on the books in December. At the most basic level, this rule (dubbed “Planning 2.0”) was an attempt, launched in May 2014, to update regulations untouched for around three decades. Specifically, the Bureau of Land Management sought to respond to critiques that their process for coming up with plans to sustainably manage and utilize public lands was slow, opaque, and unresponsive. This involved making it easier for the public to submit information and review and comment upon developing plans earlier and throughout the planning process. It would have also made it easier to plan on the “landscape level,” rather than by political borders; it would have moved ultimate decision-making authority away from state and local levels and towards the federal level to facilitate decision-making on plans involving more than one state. But that rule is now scrapped.
Who It Will Affect: Republican ideologues (especially in the West, where there is more publicly-owned land) will see this as a win for local governments against what they pained as an overreaching federal land grab. The resource extraction industry is also praising this decision by Trump, since it will presumably make it easier for them to operate on federal land. However, it will also make it much more difficult for the government to coordinate large-scale land planning initiatives, which primarily affects environmental initiatives. (Think protecting threatened species whose habitats expand across jurisdictions).
HJ Res 57: Providing for Congressional Disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of the Rule Submitted by the Department of Education Relating to Accountability and State Plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
What It Will Do: The sixth application of the Congressional Review Act in the Trump era, this nullifies a late Obama-era rule and put into implementation earlier this year. This rule was developed to guide and clarify the implementation of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act. A relatively popular bipartisan bill and the biggest overhaul of US primary and secondary education policy since 2001’s No Child Left Behind Act, ESSA changed the rules for evaluating struggling schools and how to intervene with them, balancing basic federal standards against local and state flexibility. The rule sought to pin down some specifics in this process, like pushing school evaluations to weight student achievement above other factors, mandating that schools publish facility report cards, and requiring a critical mass of students take assessment-relevant tests.
Who It Will Affect: In the short term, many worry this revocation will screw over some states and localities whose ESSA compliance plans are due in April and may have to be reworked in light of this. Democrats and a number of education and other interest groups (including the US Chamber of Commerce) argue Trump’s order will make it easy for states to mask or avoid dealing with poorly performing schools. It’s not too hard to read this, given the bipartisan support of the ESSA and the fairly innocuous language of the rules, as one of the most aggressive applications of the CRA so far.
Presidential Memorandum 18: On the White House Office of American Innovation
What It Will Do: This action creates a new executive body under the aegis of the White House: the Office of American Innovation (OAI), to be headed by the president’s senior advisor along with just under a dozen other presidential advisors and assistants, acting in consultation with the directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The OAI is given the broad task of identifying policies and other plans to improve government operations and services, the quality of life for American citizens, job creation, and general innovation and wellbeing in the nation. The OAI is specifically tasked with culling what it considers the best-proven ideas from the government, private sector, and other “thought leaders.”
Who It Will Affect: This seems to be a move to consolidate policy decisions into Trump’s inner circle—in a way that looks borderline nepotistic, as the OAI will be run by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who will reportedly consult not just with business and tech leaders but with his wife Ivanka. It’s hard to tell who it will effect or to what extent until Kushner and his team start to take actions.Initial reports suggest he may “reimagine” Veterans Affairs, seek to tackle opioid addiction in America, try to modernize tech and data infrastructure in federal agencies, rewrite worker training programs, and undertake transformative infrastructure policies. But how many projects the OAI will pursue, in what manner, and just how effectively or successfully, remains to be seen.
HJ Res 58: Providing for Congressional Disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of the Rule Submitted by the Department of Education Relating to Teacher Preparation Issues
What It Will Do: A stunning seventh application of the Congressional Review Act in the Trump era, this resolution nullifies another late Obama-era rule. This rule was in large part a reaction to Government Accountability Office findings that some states weren’t overseeing teacher training programs as required under the 1965 Higher Education Act. Accordingly, the rule sought to better define what indicators states should use to assess these programs. Ideally that data would also be better disseminated, with the goal of improving information about what teacher training programs were effective. It also sought to bar students at low-quality programs from receiving federal TEACH grants.
Who It Will Affect: From the regulators’ perspective, this measure—especially the CRA provisions that block substantially similar rules in the future without express Congressional approval—will make it much tougher for anyone to identify underperforming teacher training programs and will ultimately be detrimental to the quality of teachers in the country. From the perspective of conservatives and some higher education organizations, this prevents the federal government from taking control of education away from states and localities. It also prevents what opponents painted as a need-based grant system for teachers from being tied to the quality of an institution, which they claimed would have created year-to-year uncertainty for students in need of aid.
Proclamation 11: [Declaring] Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy, 2017
What It Will Do: Yet another perfunctory annual presidential holiday proclamation, this action commemorates the 196th anniversary of Greek independence. As in past years, Trump’s text hypes up an oversimplified historical parallels between and lines from ancient Greek to modern American democracy, broadly praises general democratic ideals and the modern state of Greece, and calls on Americans to observe the country’s independence day as we deem it appropriate.
Who It Will Affect: As with most of these proclamations, anyone who cares to observe the day could do so. That’s about it.
Presidential Memoranda 16 and 17: Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to South Sudan
What It Will Do: These actions continue an executive order Barack Obama signed in 2014, which declared the crisis in South Sudan a national emergency and attempted to seize or intercept US-based or –transiting assets of and ban travel to America by those deemed to be complicit in the nation’s misfortunes. (South Sudan entered a full-on civil war in December 2013, which has killed at least 50,000 citizens, displaced over a quarter of the population,abetted humanitarian disasters like an ongoing famine, and destabilized the wider region.) Actions such as this require that the sitting president re-declare a national emergency within 90 days of the anniversary of its initial declaration every year, or else their conditions lapse.
Who It Will Affect: In theory, this action continues to apply pressure to at least some relevant actors in South Sudan’s ongoing crisis, needling them and the nation towards peace. In practice, the order it continues certainly hasn’t made a visible dent in the deep-seated and ongoing conflict in the nation.
S 422: National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017
What It Will Do: A fairly uncontroversial bipartisan measure, this 146-page bill authorizes a $19.5 billion budget for NASA in 2018 and guides how that money should be spent. That’s a $200 million boost over the agency’s previous budget, and a direct contravention of Trump’s preliminary budget proposal, released less than a week earlier, which called for the agency’s budget to be slashed to $19.1 billion. Although it is the first NASA authorization since 2010, it mostly reaffirms support for ongoing projects or missions, like America’s involvement in the International Space Station or work on the James Webb Space Telescope. Notably, it contains a provision, the TREAT Astronauts Act, empowering NASA to provide healthcare for astronauts for medical issues related to their service and to study the effects on the human body of long-term space missions. While the bill clearly shows strong Congressional support for manned space exploration and Mars it is eerily silent on the issue of earth sciences research. This just reiterates the fact that this Congress is big on the spectacle of American greatness, it’s not so hot on climate research.
Who It Will Affect: Although this bill authorizes and guides spending, it is not an appropriations measure, so it doesn’t actually proffer the cash to do any of this. (Womp womp.) That will have to wait for the rest of the budget process to play itself out, which could be a long slog. And because this bill is also largely a continuation of previous policies given a Trump-era gloss, the pomp and ceremony surrounding its signing far outstripped its practical effects. More than anything, it shows that not all of Trump’s proposed budget cuts will become reality.
Presidential Memorandum 15: The Delegation of Authority under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017
What It Will Do: A fairly limited and presently mysterious action, this delegates President Trump’s duties under Section 3132 of the law mentioned in the title to the secretary of state. The section in question is entitled “Updated Plan for Verification and Monitoring of Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Fissile Material” and requires the president to submit a plan to relevant congressional committees on the verification and monitoring of the potential for proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials within 90 days of the law’s enactment. That means the report is theoretically due on March 22.
Who It Will Affect: This puts more responsibility onto Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—although how much and with how little notice relative to the delivery date for this report remains unknown as of publication. Regardless, it seems like a weird ask for a department whose budget the president just proposed slashing by almost a third and which therefore faces diminished capacity.
Proclamation 9: National Poison Prevention Week, 2017
What It Will Do: This is another perfunctory proclamation. Ever since the early 1960s, when politicians latched onto the shocking prevalence of accidental poisoning, Congress has authorized presidents to observe a National Poison Prevention Week every third week of March. It reflects on the fact that, while awareness over the past few decades has drastically reduced incidents of and death from accidental poisonings, society can do more to cut down on these tragedies. The federal Health Resources and Services Administration has issued a planner for incorporating poisoning prevention into everyday life and details a few awareness-raising and tool-providing events.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who actually pays attention to this proclamation can make good use of the materials provided by poison prevention agencies and groups to reduce the risk of tragic accidents for themselves or others in their lives. But most people will just ignore it.
Presidential Memorandum 14: A Letter from the President to The Speaker of the House of Representatives
What It Will Do: This memorandum is really just a letter amendment to a long-expected supplemental spending request. So the action itself doesn’t really do much. The request it introduces asks Congress to appropriate $30 billion extra dollars for the Department of Defense and $3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2017. (The 2017 budget was never finalized, and the government is currently running on a “continuing resolution,” perpetuating the previous year’s funding levels for a while.) This is separate from the $54 billion DoD spending boost proposed in Trump’s initial 2018 budget plan, although the memorandum likewise suggests paying for this funding by slashing other discretionary domestic spending.
Who It Will Affect: If Congress decides to take up the supplemental budget and passes it as is, the DoD would get a $24.9 billion boost to its base budget for general upgrades and a $5.1 billion bump to a fund for overseas operations to scale up anti-Islamic State actions and Afghanistan security actions. Homeland Security would get $1.5 billion for Trump’s infamous border wall and more funds for general border security, immigration agent hiring, and immigrant detention facilities. But Congress has no obligation to adopt Trump’s proposal.
HR 609: To Designate The Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Center in Center Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, As The “Abie Abraham VA Clinic”
What It Will Do: Exactly and exclusively what it says in the title.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone familiar with the life and works of Abraham—a Bataan Death March survivor who volunteered to disinter and identify the bodies of those who died in that brutal war crime and subsequently documented the events in historical works and devoted himself to veterans’ issues—this will be a welcome gesture. But that’s about the extent of it.
Executive Order 17: A Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch
What It Will Do: This order, despite its grandiose title, is an exceptionally short and simple document. It directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to develop a plan for improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the federal government. The Director is directed to focus on cutting “unnecessary” agencies or some of their components or programs; the order specifies that “unnecessary” means anything adjudicators believe could be better handled by states or private firms, anything redundant, anything that’s not sufficiently cost-efficient, and anything that wouldn’t cost too much to merge or shut down. Every executive agency head is required to submit a plan for reorganizing itself within 180 days of the order. The Director will then solicit public comment for an unspecified number of days. Another 180 days after this comment period concludes, the Director is expected to submit a full plan to the president detailing administrative or legislative actions needed to make it a reality.
Who It Will Affect: The order creates a lot of work for OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, who is currently up to his eyes in American Health Care Act shenanigans, and the heads of some 440 agencies. But beyond that it is, for now,mostly more signaling of the administration’s stated commitment to shrinking government. America already has waste-fighting programs—a 2010 law requiring an annual accounting of pointless or duplicate government spending has already saved taxpayers tends of billions, so it’s unclear how much the OMB will find to slice. And no matter what they find, most real changes will have to be cleared through Congress.
Proclamation 8: Proclaiming March 5 Through March 11, 2017, As National Consumer Protection Week
What It Will Do: This is yet another routine action—an annual week dedicated to helping people better manage their money and make informed decisions in the market. This year, the White House has decided to focus on helping consumers learn to secure their privacy and information in the digital sphere against cybercrimes like fraud or identity theft. As VICE News points out, this is a bit ironic given that the Trump administration has rolled back or opposed not just general consumer protection rules in favor of business interests, but also at least one regulation geared toward improving consumer cybersecurity. So this perfunctory announcement, in the Trump team’s hands, actually serves to shift the onus of consumer protection onto consumers, who must educate and protect themselves—and by omission seemingly reinforces the current administration’s aggressively pro-big-business policies.
Who It Will Affect: Unlike most of Trump’s proclamations, which just encourage people to think about a subject for a spell, this week features educational campaigns and resource distribution on personal cybersecurity. You can learn more about said resources here.
Executive Order 16: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States
What It Will Do: This is the long-awaited replacement to the “travel ban” that the courts suspended last month. First and foremost, this order is meant to cover the Trump administration’s collective ass, providing more justification for the most controversial policy the president has put forth so far. Before revoking the previous iteration of the order, Trump explains that the seven nations previously banned from travel were designated as conflict zones, state sponsors of terror, or subject to a revocation of visa waiver programs in past government actions. He also cites legislators’ concerns about visa and refugee vetting procedures and notes that the FBI is investigating 300 people who entered the US as refugees as counterterror targets (officials reportedly declined to any specify details on these investigation). But after all that throat-clearing, here’s what the order actually does:
-It temporarily bans travel to the US from six countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—all Muslim-majority nations that have either undergone significant conflict or (in Iran and Sudan’s cases) are antagonists of the US. This ban would be in place for 90 days.
-Notably, Iraq was named in the original list of banned countries but was removed from this revised list. According to the order, this is because Iraq supposedly has improved its collaboration with the US and is working to provide sufficient documentation to prove travelers from the nation are not a threat to America. (This seems to at least try to demonstrate that the ban is about security, not a bid at indefinite nationality-based lockdowns.)
-Unlike the old order, under the new order religious minorities are not singled out for preferential treatment by the refugee program.
-The US refugee program is again frozen for 120 days while vetting procedures undergo a vague review, and thereafter capped indefinitely at 50,000 entries per year—down from 110,000 per year at the end of the Obama era. The order resolves to give states and localities as much say as is legally possible in accepting refugee placement.
-This new order does not come into effect until 12:01 AM EST on March 16, rather than triggering itself immediately like the old order did—this will likely avoid the chaos of the last order, though that’s left unsaid.
-The new order instructs the departments of State and Homeland Security and the National Intelligence agency to conduct a worldwide review of what the US needs from each nation to ensure visitors pose no threat. They are asked to issue a report on this within 20 days after the order comes into effect, inform nations of new requirements within 50 days thereafter (the requirements might differ by nation), and from there provide information on non-compliance to the president, who can declare travel restrictions on any nation of concern. Reports on the implementation of these measures are to be issued by the relevant agencies in 90, 120, and 150 days after the order comes into effect. These federal bodies are also required to create baseline procedures to vet travelers as potential fraudulent entries or terror risks, and to report on progress towards creating those baselines 60, 100, and 200 days after the order comes into effect.
-Relevant agencies are instructed to compile reports on all foreign nationals charged with or convicted of terrorism-related acts, the number of foreign nationals radicalized after coming to the US, and the number of gender-based violent incidents like “honor killings” perpetrated by foreign nationals in the US. The first report, to be issued 180 days after the order comes into effect, will include every incident from 9/11 onwards, and subsequent reports will be publicized every 180 days.
-Finally, the order also encourages the expedited completion of nationwide biometric entry scan systems, with reports on progress to be issued in 100, 200, and 365 days after the order goes into effect and then every 180 days after that until they are operation. It expands the US consular fellows program to increase America’s diplomatic capacity—which can be seen a potential move to increase America’s visa review capacity. Relevant agencies are also instructed to review visa reciprocity agreements and adjust our visa procedures with other nations to reach true reciprocity.
Who It Will Affect: Largely, this order has the same effect as the old one, making life harder for citizens of the six countries who want to travel to the US, as well as thousands of refugees. It’s less harsh than the previous order, however, and may reverse the 60,000 visa revocations under the previous order’s disastrous rollout. Those with visas issued before 16 March, lawful permanent residents, those let into the country for any reason after the order goes into effect, people with dual nationalities traveling on unrestricted nations’ passports, diplomats and treaty negotiators, and previously accepted refugees or asylum grantees are all exempted from new restrictions. Case-by-case waivers can also be issued for banned country residents; the order cites those who have previously visited and wish to return for work or school, those with strong contacts to the US or family here, those with American business contacts they need to meet with, those employed by American firms, and those who are citizens of a banned country but who reside in Canada and apply for a visa from there. Also, there’s no longer an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.
The order will likely still face legal challenges from a host of groups, perhaps even before it goes into effect. It may satisfy some critics who wanted to reduce refugee admissions but object to the original order’s sudden cruelty—but it will still be staunchly opposed by immigrants who have come from the banned countries, and those who think the US has an obligation to accept more refugees.
Presidential Memorandum 13: Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and Other Immigration Benefits, Ensuring Enforcement of All Laws for Entry into the United States, and Increasing Transparency Among Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government and for the American People
What It Will Do: This action is basically a companion to the new travel ban. It calls for more stringent and rigorous vetting of foreign nationals for security concerns before they enter the US. The departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State are urged to implement whatever new protocols or procedures they can under existing law that they feel would improve screening. They, alongside other relevant agencies, are also empowered to issue new rules, regulations, and guidances to strengthen old or new enforcement provisions. Homeland Security and State are also instructed to issue monthlyreports on the number and type of visas issued, disaggregated by country, alongside any other information they deem important to the American people; the first report (at the end of April 2017) will detail all visas issued from the day of the memorandum’s issuance onwards. Reports are also to be issued every 90 days on any changes in existing visa-holders’ or immigrants’ status or benefits. Other relevant agencies are instructed to issue a report within 180 days on the long-term costs of hosting refugees in America at the federal, state, and local levels and recommendations on how to reduce those costs. Another report is to be issued on the comparative costs of hosting refugees long-term in their nation of first asylum—where the landed immediately after fleeing their homelands.
Who It Will Affect: Basically this seems to be a directive that will make it harder to enter the country or stay in by changing visas statuses and provide ammunition to those on the anti-immigration right who want to trumpet the costs of refugees without noting the benefits.
Proclamation 7: Proclaiming March 2017 as Women’s History Month
What It Will Do: Presidents have proclaimed March as Women’s History Monthevery year since 1987. This proclamation reaffirms America’s commitment to promoting women’s full access in all aspects of life in the nation and to advancing women’s issues around the world. Interestingly, while the National Women’s History Project chose this year to focus on women in American labor and business history, Trump chose to name-drop a mix of entertainers, civil rights leaders, and career trailblazers in his proclamation—but didn’t do much to recognize women involved in labor rights advocacy.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who wants to pause to reflect on women’s history in March.
Proclamation 6: Proclaiming March 2017 as American Red Cross Month
What It Will Do: Presidents have recognized American Red Cross Month every year since World War II. Trump specifically commended the organization for its role in provisioning America’s blood donation supply, educating Americans in life-saving techniques, and its direct role over the past year in responding to dozens of humanitarian incidents.
Who It Will Affect: If you’ve been meaning to donate to, take a class with, or otherwise get involved with the Red Cross, this might give you a little nudge to do so.
Proclamation 5: Proclaiming March 2017 as Irish American Heritage Month
What It Will Do: Presidents have recognized Irish-American Heritage Month every year for over a quarter-century now. Trump’s proclamation acknowledges the role of Irish Americans in the Revolutionary and Civil wars, the foundation and operation of old cottage industrial and blue-collar industries, and the creation of a distinctive American culture. He also uses some bootstrap language about the Irish providing an example of people pulling themselves out of poverty.
Who It Will Affect: Ideally, stopping to think about Irish-American history ought to force Trump to take a long, hard look at his own views and policies on immigration. On the other hand, it won’t.