This post will be continuously updated throughout 2017 as President Donald Trump signs executive orders and makes bills into laws. Read more about this project here.
Presidential Proclamation 119: [Proclaiming] January 22, 2018, As National Sanctity of Human Life Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential tradition dating back to 1984, although Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did not observe it, this proclamation ostensibly reaffirms America’s commitment to fighting the dehumanization of certain classes of people based on race, ability, or similar categories. However it is primarily concerned with asserting the executive branch’s commitment to protecting unborn children. To wit, it’s a reaffirmation of Trump’s pro-life, anti-abortion credentials, gussied up with text about protecting mothers, the elder, and the disabled.
Who It Will Affect: As always, pro-life groups will mark this day with commemorations for aborted fetuses and other anti-abortion events. These groups will be happy to see the White House making this day as well. But it’ll piss off the pro-choice camp, as it usually does.
S.139: FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 What It Will Do: After September 11, 2001, the federal government established a sweeping surveillance program within the older structure of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Known as Section 702, this provision allows the National Intelligence Agency and the Department of Justice to monitor the communications of non-Americans outside of the country without a warrant from a FISA court. Authorization for this program ran out at the end of 2017, and was continued in stopgap form for several weeks, until Congress could pass this bill, which reauthorizes it through 2023. It also makes several technical amendments, like one that limits the FBI’s ability to access FISA surveillance databases in ongoing cases. There has long been a concern that Section 702 can be used to unmask and monitor American citizens communicating with foreign entities or who are mentioned in foreign communications, despite the fact that this program is not meant to target them. The pro-privacy tweaks made by this bill come with all manner of complex caveats, which anti-surveillance advocates worry will render them ineffective.
Who It Will Affect: This was a contentious bill and a rare example of support not falling along partisan lines. Pro-security state Democrats and most Republicans favored it, as did the White House and the intelligence community. But libertarian-leaning Republicans and most Democrats, as well as privacy activists nationwide, worried that this bill still leaves enough room for the program to be used to surveil American citizens.
Presidential Proclamation 118: [Proclaiming] January 16, 2018, as Religious Freedom Day What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation commemorates the passage of a Virginia law on this day in 1786 that became the basis for the First Amendment of the US Constitution, guaranteeing citizens the freedom to profess and practice their religious beliefs as they see fit. Trump’s text argues that America often falls far short of guaranteeing religious freedom and makes oblique reference to a number of Christian conservative pet court cases. He points to a few of the rather weak pro-religious freedom actions he took in 2017 as proof that he is devoted to the evangelical conservative vision of that concept, involving the right to deny or limit services to others based on religious views.
Who It Will Affect: Most Americans will mark this day with events devoted to religious tolerance, as they have in the past. But Trump is clearly attempting to use this routine duty as a sop to the religious conservative base that supported him so devoutly in the 2016 presidential election.
Presidential Proclamation 117: [Proclaiming] January 15, 2018, as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation commemorates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s contributions to the civil rights movement in American, and this year marks the 50-year anniversary of his assassination. Trump’s text acknowledges that King’s work reminds us that America can easily slip into injustice, against which we must endeavor to fight. It further claims that his administration is fighting for equality, through economic development, which will bring jobs and prosperity to marginalized communities. It also calls for Americans to not just mark the say with commemorations of King, but with acts of community service.
Who It Will Affect: Americans across the nation marked King’s birthday with the usual acts of service and remembrance, just as Trump’s order suggests. However many also used the day to point out Trump’s hypocrisy, having spent a good chunk of the day on a golf course rather than in community service as his predecessors have since the 1990s. It’s also a convenient time for Trump critics to highlight the latest in a series of accusations of racism against the president.
H.R.2611: Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Boundary Modification Act What It Will Do: This act amends the borders of the historic site named in its title to add seven residences in the high school’s neighborhood, a total of 1.7 acres of land. Officials are instructed to enter into agreements with the residences’ owners to limit alterations to their exteriors without government approval and to allocate resources to research, mark, improve, and restore them, all to better preserve the history of an area that played a key role in American civil rights history.
Who It Will Affect: This is a simple tweak that helps honor civil rights history; it seems to be uncontroversial and to have bipartisan support.
H.R.954: To Remove the Use Restrictions on Certain Land Transferred to Rockingham County, Virginia, and for Other Purposes What It Will Do: In 1989, the federal government deeded about three acres land it owned to Virginia’s Rockingham County. In 1990, Congress passed a law allowing the Plains Area Day Care Center to be built on that land. However the law was narrow enough that several federal land usage restrictions remained on the land, limiting the center’s ability to secure loans for improvements to its facilities. This bill removes those restrictions on the land the center sits on, but not the full acreage granted to the county, to allow the center to continue its work.
Who It Will Affect: This is a simple technical fix that benefits one daycare center and the people who use it.
H.R.518: EPS Improvement Act of 2017 What It Will Do: This bill lifts conservation and energy usage restrictions on certain electrical equipment used to power certain types of lights and ceiling fans.
Who It Will Affect: This is a narrow carveout on a narrow sliver of environmental protection and waste prevention legislation, similar to a November 2 law lifting some conservation restrictions on life-saving security systems. It will be appreciated by a few actors in the energy and hardware fields, but relatively inconsequential to the majority of the country.
H.R.2331: Connected Government Act What It Will Do: This act recognizes that many federal websites are hard to navigate or load, especially on the small screens of cell phones, which Americans increasingly use to look at the internet, especially during natural disasters. (According to one recent study, only 59 percent of federal websites are mobile friendly and only 36 percent load quickly on mobile phones.) It requires that 18 months after this act passes, all new federal websites, or revamps of existing websites, must be mobile friendly. In three years, the Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration are instructed to prepare a report on the implementation of this law’s requirements to that point.
Who It Will Affect: This is a commonsense public engagement and good governance measure that will, in theory, make it easier for citizens to access federal information and tools.
H.R.2228: Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017 What It Will Do: This law instructs the attorney general and secretaries of the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to prepare a report for Congress on mental health practices and services in their departments that might be good models for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. It instructs the Office of Community Oriented Policing to update a 2015 report on case studies of how programs designed to improve law officers’ health and wellbeing and report to Congress on this matter. It makes it possible for existing programs offering grants to state and local police forces to offer them for mental health and wellness pilot programs. The attorney general is also instructed to develop education materials with the Department of Health and Human Services to inform mental health providers about law enforcement culture and the special needs of and special therapies proven to work best for officers. Additionally, the attorney general is instructed to identify effective examples of law enforcement-focused crisis hotlines nationwide and recommend to Congress whether it should create a new such hotline or how it can support existing help lines. He is also instructed to review the efficacy of annual mental health checks for law enforcement officers and consult law enforcement officers on their mental health and wellness needs.
Who It Will Affect: This measure was developed with input from police organizations and broad bipartisan support. While some in society may have their problems with cops, few would argue that we should not attempt to ensure the mental wellness of those given great force and power over our lives, or that this job comes with unique mental stresses.
H.R.2142: INTERDICT Act What It Will Do: This bill offers $9 million in new funding to US Customs and Border Protection to stock up on chemical screening devices used to detect fentanyl and other synthetic opioids at border checkpoints and mail facilities.
Who It Will Affect: Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are incredibly powerful substances highly implicated in the increasing mortality of the opioid crisis in America. They are mostly produced abroad and come into the US through the mail system or across border checkpoints. This is a bipartisan measure to reduce the flow of a proven dangerous substance into the United States. However, many may still see it as a far cry from the level of action Trump promised to take against the opioid crisis in America during his presidential campaign.
H.R.863: To Facilitate the Addition of Park Administration at the Coltsville National Historical Park, and for Other Purposes What It Will Do: In December 2014, Congress approved the creation of a national historical park on the site of Sam Colt’s 19th-century firearms manufacturing facilities in Hartford, Connecticut, to recognize a chapter in American industrial history. However the private company developing many of Colt’s old properties and the National Parks Service later agreed that the building chosen for the administrative and visitor center for the park wasn’t a good fit. This bill modifies the park’s creation to reflect the change of that center to another building.
H.R.699: Mount Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act What It Will Do: In 2009, Congress enacted a major land management bill that set acres of forest around Oregon’s Mount Hood up for a land swap agreement that would turn it into protected wilderness. However the details of that land swap got tied up in messy litigation for years—it’s all a bit esoteric and highly local to Oregon. A deal was finally reached to allow 100 acres of forest on one slope of the mountain to be developed and 700 acres to be preserved as wilderness. This act just clarifies and codifies the parameters of that deal.
Who It Will Affect: Those eager to see wilderness around Mount Hood protected will be happy to see a long administrative and legal slog finally put to bed.
H.R.381: To Designate a Mountain in the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest as “Sky Point” What It Will Do: This bill recognizes the service and memory of US Marine Corps Staff Sargent Sky Mote, who died in 2012 while protecting fellow service members from an attack by a rogue Afghan police officer at a military base in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. It does this by naming a previously unnamed peak in the Humphrey Basin at which he and his family used to camp after him.
Who It Will Affect: This will be a welcome gesture to those who knew and cared for Sky Mote, especially those who visited this peak with him.
Executive Order 57: Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life What It Will Do: Due to the challenges of transitioning back to civilian life after service, veterans in America are particularly at risk for suicide. According to recent Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, about 20 vets end their lives every day. The risk of suicide is up to two times higher in the first year of a veteran’s transition back to civilian life. Yet as of now, only 40 percent of veterans qualify for relevant support services, and must prove that their problems resulted from their service in order to receive any sort of help.
This order recognizes that reality. It then calls on the secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to address this service gap. They are tasked with developing a plan within 60 days to improve veterans’ access to support services in the first year after their service. One-hundred eighty days after that, they are to draft a report on the implementation of their plan, its efficacy in reducing veteran suicide rates, further reforms needed, and a timeline for full implementation. No funds are provided for this effort, which will be financed using existing department budgets.
Who It Will Affect: Since this order only calls for the development of some kind of plan, it’s hard to say what effect it will have. However, officials have floated a number of ideas already, like increasing the number of relevant facilities, extending post-deployment access to a service providing face-to-face reintegration counseling and a 24-hour helpline, developing tools to help service members begin their transitions back to civilian life while they’re still in uniform, and reducing the barriers to access to services for recent veterans. Hopefully, these tweaks will bring suicide prevention services to all of the 265,000 individuals transitioning out of military service every year.
Presidential Memorandum 92: For the Director of National Intelligence What It Will Do: To protect citizens’ privacy, intelligence reports circulated to government officials usually redact their names. These names can be “unmasked” if an official makes the case that it is necessary for them to understand the value of any given intelligence report. Trump notoriously cried fall about this process last year, saying reports that the Obama administration requested to unmask some of his associates in a report proved he’d been “wiretapped.”
This memorandum gives the Director of National Intelligence 30 days to develop a policy that will shift the standards for how every element of the intelligence community processes requests from federal, state, and local officials to unmask citizens’ information. It is expected to significantly tighten standards, making it harder to uncover names linked to intel reports.
Who It Will Affect: Depending on the policy enacted in a month’s time, this could be frustrating for officials trying to figure out how important or meaningful any given piece of intel may be. However, it will increase the privacy and information security of citizens. The fact that Trump is asking for this after his tizzy last year, though, will prompt suspicion about his motives.
Presidential Memorandum 93: Delegation of Responsibilities under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016What It Will Do: Under Section 301 of the act named in this action’s title, the president’s office is tasked with identifying non-state actors across the world engaged in egregious violations of religious freedoms and then putting them in an annual report. In this action, Trump just offloads this upcoming duty from his office onto the secretary of State.
Who It Will Affect: This is just another instance of Trump shirking the nuts and bolts duties of his office. It’s not surprising by now.
Executive Order 56: Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America What It Will Do: This order acknowledges the importance of affordable and reliable broadband to success in the modern economy, and the chronic lack of access to said resources in rural America. (As of 2016, the federal government estimated that 39 percent of rural Americans lacked high-speed internet, versus 4 percent of urban Americans.) To address this massive and chronic issue, this order just commits the Trump administration to following provisions of a 2012 law that mandated the federal government draw up standard forms for broadband companies to apply to put wireless facilities on federal properties. Trump’s main innovation here is requiring officials to evaluate the efficacy of the current forms and, within 180 days, identify any revisions that could be made to them. Officials are instructed to see how many form applications were approved, why rejected forms were rejected, and monitor the time from an application to a decision to see if any other reforms are merited.
Who It Will Affect: Even the White House acknowledged that this was an incremental step toward a larger policy, which will probably require serious federal funding. (Estimates place the cost of improving rural broadband access at $80 billion.) It does nothing to address the lack of incentives to develop rural broadband, or the lack of competition in rural marketplaces. At best, it’s a minor band aid that could help projects in the works a bit.
Presidential Memorandum 91: Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed by the Department of the Interior What It Will Do: This action is a corollary to Executive Order 56. (See above.) It instructs the secretary of the Interior to develop a plan to make it easier for broadband developers to access federal facilities managed by his department. Within 180 days, he is to report to the president on his progress.
Who It Will Affect: Basically the same as for Executive Order 56. It’s a tiny move to address a huge issue. And it’s disappointing, both for tech development wonks and those living in under-connected rural areas, considering all the other actions Trump could have taken on this issue
H.R.1927: African American Civil Rights Network Act of 2017 What It Will Do: This act recognizes the importance of the African American civil rights movement and those who made sacrifices for it. It authorizes the National Park Service to create a US Civil Rights Network, tying together relevant operations within the Service, that will be tasked with coordinating and facilitating projects to commemorate the history of that movement. The Network will operate for seven years, tending to relevant events and historical sites and developing and disseminating new educational materials on the issue.
Who It Will Affect: Those interested in preserving the history of this vital chapter in American history will appreciate this gesture, although it remains to be seen what the network will do.
H.R.1306: Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act What It Will Do: This bill grants 18,519 acres of land in Oregon to the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians and 14,742 acres to the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. These tribes were not recognized by the government until the 1980s; this act finally gives them control over sovereign territory. It also restores sovereignty over forest management to the Coquille Tribe on their lands, which was not granted to them when they received their sovereign territory in 1996. The secretary of the Interior is instructed to firm up the boundaries of and terms of federal access rights to these lands in the coming months.
Who It Will Affect: This is a monumental development for three tribal groups, and may have some effect on facilities operating on these lands before this status change.
H.R.1242: 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act What It Will Do: This bill commemorates the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in the English colonies in Virginia in 1619. It creates a 15-member commission, composed of government officials, members of civic societies, and historians, to be appointed within 120 days. The commission will plan, develop, and carry out activities recognizing and highlighting African-American history since that point in time, and it will be authorized to provide grants of up to $20,000 to support related activities at all levels. The commission is unfunded, but will be authorized to raise money for its activities. (Estimates place its projected expenses at about $6 million.)
Who It Will Affect: This is a bipartisan measure, and a routine act of recognition, on par with Commissions created to highlight English heritage in America in light of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia.
H.R.560: To Amend the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Improvement Act to Provide Access to Certain Vehicles Serving Residents of Municipalities Adjacent to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and for Other Purposes What It Will Do: About 30 years ago, Pennsylvania gave a portion of a state highway passing through the area mentioned in this bill’s title to the National Parks Service. It subjected the road to a ban on commercial traffic on National Parks–operated roads, which would have caused potential trouble for adjacent towns and for businesses operating in the area. At the time, and for years since, waivers were issued for certain forms of commercial transit on this road. Those waivers lapsed in 2015. This act restores them until September 30, 2021, at which point they will need restoring again.
Who It Will Affect: This will make life easier for businesses and towns in and around the recreation area in question, but will have no wider effect.
H.R.267: Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park Act of 2017 What It Will Do: In 1992, the federal government recognized several sites associated with the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., as a collective national historic site. This bill adds one building, the former headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that King co-founded, and upgrades the collective site to national park status—the first such entity in Georgia.
Who It Will Affect: This is a welcome gesture of recognition to efforts to preserve and elevate the history of the civil rights movement and the memory of King and those involved in them.
S.1766: SAFER Act of 2017 What It Will Do: In 2013, Congress passed a previous version of this act allocating funds to help process the tens of thousands of backlogged rape kits sitting in evidence lockers nationwide. This bill reauthorizes that program until 2023. It also ensures that pediatric nurse practitioners can receive training in sexual assault examinations.
Who It Will Affect: This bill mostly maintains a status quo—which clearly is not good enough, given America’s continuing massive rape kit processing backlog.
S.1532: No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act What It Will Do: This bill mandates that anyone who uses a commercial motor vehicle in committing a felony related to human trafficking should be disqualified from holding a commercial vehicle license.
Who It Will Affect: This bill is an effort to keep bad actors from re-abusing America’s road systems for trafficking purposes, so it plays to law and order types as well as those who have supported a host of anti-trafficking measures passed in recent years.
S.1393: Jobs for Our Heroes Act What It Will Do: This bill makes it easier for veterans to obtain commercial driver’s licenses to get work in the transit industry. It does this by widening the scope of people at Veterans Affairs facilities authorized to give them a required medical examination and allowing them to count their time spent driving vehicles in the Armed Services towards their commercial vehicle driver’s test.
Who It Will Affect: The commercial transit industry is in the middle of a huge driver shortage, projected to be 50,000 people this year and to reach 174,000 by 2026 under current trends. It has long eyed veterans as a potential source of competent drivers.
Executive Order 55: Termination of Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity
What It Will Do: On May 11, Trump established the commission named in this order’s title ostensibly to enhance voter confidence in American election systems and find ways to deter fraudulent voter registration or voting. But from the beginning, many observers noted it seemed to be more intent on substantiating Trump’s claims that millions of people voted illegally against him in 2016, costing him the popular vote. Multiple studies have found that such voter fraud is extremely rare and Trump has offered no evidence to back his assertions. It was also seen as a potential vehicle for the promotion of nationwide voter restriction measures that would likely disproportionately disenfranchise poor and minority voters.
When the commission made sweeping requests for voter data in June, the vast majority of states balked, and some joined civil rights organizations to file lawsuits alleging federal overreach. In July, the commission published emails from its critics without redacting the sensitive personal information of individual citizens, sparking another round of backlash. In November, one of the few Democrats who agreed to participate on the commission concluded that it was not as constructive and apolitical an exercise as he’d hoped and that he was being frozen out of its communications; he filed a lawsuit and in December a judge found grounds in it to compel the commission to hand over more information to its own member. Also in the fall, the Government Accountability Office launched an investigation into the commission’s funding, internal operations, and handling of sensitive voter information.
This order disbands the commission after only two meetings (in July and September) and before it could yield any findings. In related statements, the administration has blamed the deluge of non-compliance and lawsuits and stated that it will pass on the task of investigating voter fraud to the Department of Homeland Security.
Who It Will Affect: Commission members on both sides of the aisle were reportedly blindsided by this decision; just last week reports emerged that it would hold its third meeting in January. Democrats and voting rights activists have been celebrating this move. However voter restriction supporters point out that the Department of Homeland Security may be able to move faster than the commission, and with fewer potential barriers. Trump also continues to insist, baselessly, that voter fraud is a rampant problem and that America needs a national voter identification law. So this is a mixed result for both sides of the voter fraud and access debate.
Presidential Proclamation 116: [Proclaiming] January 2018 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
What It Will Do: This is an annual presidential duty that calls on Americans to acknowledge the continued existence and prevalence of human trafficking—some 25 million individuals are currently bonded into forced sexual or physical labor in brothels, factories, homes, and on farms and vessels worldwide—and recommit government to eradicating the practice. Some 7,500 cases of trafficking were reported in America in 2016, an increase of 2,000 cases over the previous year; this plays into Trump’s (overblown) rhetoric about a wave of crime plaguing the nation. It has also been a priority on his daughter and adviser Ivanka’s agenda. Trump uses most of his text to applaud his administration’s work on this issue, and notes he will be signing two bills related to combating trafficking on America’s road systems later this month.
Who It Will Affect: Organizations dedicated to ending human trafficking will appreciate this recognition of the issue, and mark the month with educational and awareness-raising events nationwide. However, some will likely take the opportunity to note that Trump’s draconian stances on immigration seem to be making it harder for trafficking victims to come forward for fear that they will not be able to secure protective visas and may ultimately be deported.
Presidential Proclamation 115: To Take Certain Actions under the African Growth and Opportunity Act and for Other Purposes
What It Will Do: This proclamation maintains the status quo on a number of trade deal provisions, like one providing duty-free access to US markets for Israeli agricultural products that’s been in place since 2004 but needs annual reauthorizations. It also makes minor tweaks to a number of provisions of several trade deals. Most significantly, it reverses Obama-era decisions to deny Gambia and Swaziland duty-free trade access to American markets under the act named in the proclamation’s title. That access is contingent on maintaining or improving political freedoms and human rights standards. Obama decided that those two nations were not living up to their obligations, but Trump seems to feel they’re making progress.
Who It Will Affect: This decision will make ramifications for some exporters in a number of nations. But most significantly it will be a major boon to industries in the two African nations. Critics of these nations’ governments may question whether they really have made enough progress on political access and human rights to warrant this reversal, however.
Executive Order 54: On Adjustments of Certain Rates of Pay
What It Will Do: Earlier this year, Trump set pay raises for federal employees in 2018 at levels slightly below what they would have automatically received under current law. However, he noted that his order would not take effect if Congress decided to set a different rate. Legislators didn’t act on this issue, so this is Trump enacting his rate changes for 2018.
Who It Will Affect: Most federal groups believe Trump is exercising unnecessary austerity, while conservatives think he’s not going far enough in equalizing federal and private sector compensation rates. Trump may reduce pay increases further next year, exacerbating these debates.
H.R.1370: An Act to Amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to Require the Secretary of Homeland Security to Issue Department of Homeland Security-wide Guidance and Develop Training Programs as Part of the Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign, and for Other Purposes
What It Will Do: This bill was originally the “Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign Authorization Act of 2017,” which codified a longstanding Department of Homeland Security initiative coordinating efforts at reducing human trafficking. It also called for the development of guidelines and training on how to identify traffickers and their victims, get assistance for victims, and collect and share records on suspected or convicted offenders and their current modes of operation. And it appropriated $819,000 for these efforts and required a report to Congress on its status within 18 months.
However, as Congress approached a December 22 deadline to re-fund the government or face a federal shutdown, dealmakers needed a legislative vehicle that’d already passed through both chambers to insert new funding language and pass it as quickly as possible. So they stripped this bill of its original language and turned it into a bill that funds the government at current levels until January 19. The bill also appropriates extra funds for a number of health programs that Congress never got around to reauthorizing this year through the end of March, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But it does not resolve any of these programs’ ultimate fates. And it appropriates substantial funds for new ballistic missile acquisitions, defense projects, and relevant research and development in the military.
Who It Will Affect: This bill mostly keeps the government afloat for a couple more weeks. However it’s just queuing up another major funding showdown soon after Congress returns from its holiday recess. Legislators are taking serious flack for failing to resolve the fate of CHIP and other healthcare programs.
H.R.1: An Act to Provide for Reconciliation Pursuant to Titles II and V of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018
What It Will Do: This is the Republicans' big tax bill, the most significant change to the American tax code since 1986. The legislation is over 1,000 pages long and was passed so quickly, and with so little debate or oversight, that we don’t actually understand everything it will do yet. There’s a good chance that elements of the bill will be clarified or amended in the coming months and years. Here are the most significant parts of the bill:
- While the bottom individual income tax bracket stays the same, the other six brackets are reduced by one to six points. The top income bracket goes down from 39.6 to 37 percent.
- Most individual deductions are eliminated, save for up to $10,000 for state and local income and property taxes, medical expenses, and some mortgage interest.
- In return, the standard deduction is almost doubled. Child tax credits are also doubled, with a slight increase in how much of the credit is refundable. This credit can also be applied to other dependents, like the elderly, not just children now.
- The cutoff lines for the estate tax is doubled to $11 million for an individual and $22 million for couples, reducing tax burdens on the wealthiest Americans and those who will inherit their wealth. The level at which the alternative minimum tax kicks in to prevent undue gaming of the code by the wealthy is increased as well.
- The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which imposes a tax penalty on those who do not purchase insurance, is eliminated starting in 2019.
- The corporate tax rate is reduced from 35 to 21 percent. Deductions and loopholes for corporations are largely left in place.
- Individuals who report their business income as personal income, also known as "pass through" companies, can now deduct up to 20 percent of their business income on their individual taxes. This attempts to keep pass0through rates competitive with corporate rates. However this provision comes with all sorts of caveats, limiting the type and level of deductions that can be made and restricting doctors and lawyers who make more than a certain amount of money from using it, among other fine-grained limitations.
- Multinational corporations are now taxed under a “territorial system,” in which their foreign income and operations will not be taxed by the US government. Income stored overseas to date is encouraged to return home under a one-time “tax holiday,” imposing a low 15.5 percent rate on cash and 8 percent on non-cash assets coming back into the US.
- Only the corporate tax provisions of the bill and the end of the ACA mandate are permanent. The other provisions of the bill, including those for pass throughs, phase out by 2025.
- The bill also contains a provision opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) up to oil and natural gas drilling, ending debates dating back to ANWR’s foundation in 1980.
Who It Will Affect: Starting next year, the majority of Americans will receive some tax relief, while rates will rise only for some people and usually not the most vulnerable. However this relief will be marginal for most Americans, and benefits will accrue mostly to the wealthiest individuals. Once the individual tax provisions of this bill run out, taxes could start going up for many Americans. Republicans seem to be banking on future Congresses re-passing those provisions, though—and possibly cutting other programs, like welfare, to do so—in a bid to avoid inflicting pain on middle-class taxpayers. The bill also changes the way inflation is calculated for tax brackets, shifting to a slower calculation, which may degrade the value of tax cuts and increased deductions over time, even if they are renewed.
Republicans seem to hope that the tax relief they do offer in the immediate future will benefit them politically, overcoming the intense unpopularity of the tax bill and the rushed, partisan process by which it was created. But both the political and the practical, human-level consequences of this hugely consequential piece of legislation remain unclear.
Executive Order 53: Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption
What It Will Do: This is the first utilization of the Global Magnitsky Act, signed into law about a year ago, which allows the president to impose financial and visa sanctions on foreigners suspected of or proven to have perpetrated human rights violations or acts of corruption. Trump here lists 13 individuals, with the Treasury Department listing another 39, who will now have their financial or property assets moving through America frozen and face new limits in their ability to do business with Americans or American institutions or to travel to the US. The two lists cover people from a Balkan arms dealer to a Pakistani surgeon to a Guatemalan congressman to former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. They also notably target a general involved in Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of its Rohingya Muslim minority, a Chinese security officer implicated in the death of a human rights activist, and several Russians in or affiliated with that country’s government. The sanctions went into effect the day the order was signed.
Who It Will Affect: Directly, this order just covers the 52 individuals. But it also sends signals about how the sweeping sanctions powers of the Global Magnitsky Act could be used during the Trump administration. It sends limited signs as well that the US will continue to exert some pressure on the standard human rights abuser states. However, the sanction of one officer has already irked China. Threats of retaliation may limit how widely Trump decides to use these powers.
S.Con.Res.31: A Concurrent Resolution Authorizing the Use of the Rotunda of the Capitol for a Ceremony to Award the Congressional Gold Medal to Bob Dole
What It Will Do: On September 14, legislation was enacted officially conferring the Congressional Gold Medal upon Bob Dole.This action just permits a ceremony awarding that medal to be held in the Capitol Rotunda on January 17, 2018.
Who It Will Affect: Bob Dole and anyone else attending his award ceremony.
S.1266: Enhancing Veteran Care Act
What It Will Do: This bill authorizes officials in charge of medical facility networks within the Department of Veterans Affairs to contract nonprofit third-party organizations that accredit other healthcare organizations and programs in America to investigate their facilities. The hope is that these reports will turn up deficiencies or failures that internal reviews might not.
Who It Will Affect: This is a basic and bipartisan bit of good governance, aiming to provide external oversight to an institution that has very publicly failed to live up to its potential or to adequately police itself in the recent past. Hopefully it will help to root out failures and abuses, ultimately improving medical care for veterans across the nation.
Executive Order 52: On a Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals
What It Will Do: This order was seemingly timed to the release, a day prior, of the United States Geological Survey’s first comprehensive report since 1973 on 23 minerals critical to tech, military, and other operations in the US. It found that for all but two of those minerals, at least 50 percent of the American supply is dependent on foreign exporters, with 20 minerals highly tied up in trade with China. Trump’s order instructs the Department of Defense to publish a list of key minerals of concern within 60 days. Within 180 days, six federal agencies are tasked with submitting a report to the president laying out strategies for reducing reliance on these minerals, increasing domestic recycling and reprocessing of them, and decreasing permitting process burdens for potential mine operators, among other things.
Who It Will Affect: This order will excite domestic mineral extraction firms, eager to see more support for their operations and protections against international competition. However it’s unclear how Trump will boost domestic production, considering that it is low because importing many of these minerals from the countries we do is much cheaper. China meanwhile may take this as another attack on Sino-American trade relations; it remains to be seen how it will process this highly speculative order. And Democrats and environmental organizations will likely respond with fear and apprehension, as this order may serve as a smokescreen for Trump to justify further ripping into environmental regulations on national security grounds.
S. 371: Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017, Improvements Act
What It Will Do: This is a mostly technocratic adjustment to an earlier bill setting policy and spending priorities for the State Department. It mostly loops the appropriations committees of the Senate and House into oversight provisions in the bill, and makes a few legalese tweaks.
Who It Will Affect: Few folks outside of State functionaries and relevant committee members.
H.R.288: Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2017
What It Will Do: A number of federal agencies provide diverse grants to Native American communities nationwide to enhance their education, skills training, and job placement. But the diverse sources of support often lead to bureaucratic issues sorting people into the right programs or getting them set up across multiple initiatives. This law allows Native American communities to pool different federal programs together into consolidated, centralized employment and training programs at the tribal level to streamline their services.
Who It Will Affect: This may make it easier for members of Native American communities to find the support they need to find employment and financial security. It has received support from a number of communities.
Presidential Proclamation 114: [Proclaiming] December 17, 2017, as Wright Brothers Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating to 1963, this proclamation commemorates the day the Wright brothers’ biplane first lifted off at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, ushering in the age of aviation in the United States. Trump’s text gives a brief overview of the last 114 years of aeronautic innovation in the US and notes that the spirit of the Wright brothers is at the heart of the American narrative.
Who It Will Affect: As in years past, aviation and relevant historical societies will mark this day with commemorations nationwide.
H.R.2810: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018
What It Will Do: This is a massive piece of legislation, well over 1,000 pages long, which ultimately does something fairly simple: It funds the Pentagon, America’s armed services, and the nuclear systems within the Department of Energy for the next fiscal year. Ultimately it authorizes $692 billion towards these ends, $632 billion for basic defense spending, and $60 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which is used for war operations like the fight against ISIS. Most of the text digs into the technical minutiae about how these funds should be used. It contains a number of minor provisions, only a few of which have wide significance—like the decision to ban military usage of software from Russian cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs. The firm has come under accusations of operating as a backdoor for the Russian government. This provision is one of several highlighting Congressional concerns with Russian activities, which the Trump administration does not seem to wholeheartedly share.
Who It Will Affect: This measure not only keeps America’s military and other defense apparatuses functioning, it expands them. What’s more, it does so more than Trump had called for in his 2018 budget, and with substantial bipartisan support. That support was the result of decisions to block the addition of controversial amendments to this bill, which could have turned it into a problematic lightning rod. The bill did elicit minor pushback from fiscal conservatives who worry about the fact that it exceeds budget caps by $83 billion, a sign to them of unbridled spending; they also worry that the Overseas Contingency Fund is being used inappropriately, as a slush fund to get around these caps. However this was, overall, a straightforward spending measure, perhaps a signal that, to get something done, Republicans may want to move on simple spending measures for the rest of the government by year’s end, avoiding controversial fights tacked onto them.
H.R.4374: To Amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to Authorize Additional Emergency Uses for Medical Products to Reduce Deaths and Severity of Injuries Caused by Agents of War, and for Other Purposes What It Will Do: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 contains language that would allow the Department of Defense to unilaterally sign off on medical devices, drugs, and products not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in military emergencies or expected emergencies—war zones, in other words. This language was reportedly spurred by frustrations in the rollout of freeze-dried plasma, which many consider uniquely life-saving in combat scenarios, but which has been highly restricted for a decade. Health officials, however, protested that the language in that bill was too strong and essentially would allow the Pentagon to sign off on anything it liked with no FDA approval, putting soldiers at an increased risk of medical harm. So this bill repeals that bill’s language on the matter and replaces it with more restrained language, allowing the Pentagon to request the expedited review and approval of products it can show are relevant to a military emergency and outlining steps the FDA can take to speed the process up.
Who It Will Affect: This legislation maintains the integrity of the FDA, likely saving the lives of soldiers who could have been exposed to unsafe materials by an overeager military looking to help them but acting outside of its expertise. However it should also satisfy those in the military frustrated with the pace and process of the FDA.
Presidential Memorandum 90: On Reinvigorating America’s Human Space Exploration Program
What It Will Do: This document amends Obama-era space exploration policies to stress the current administration’s desire to restart manned missions to the moon in the near future, and thereafter to Mars. Trump’s policy stresses cooperation with emerging private space exploration firms for projects advancing raw exploration and seeking to utilize resources in space.
Who It Will Affect: Space industry and policy experts support this sentiment. But it’s nothing terribly new. Trump made his interest in the pomp of space exploration and moon landings as a symbol of American greatness apparent back in June, when he re-launched the National Space Council. And this document provides absolutely zero details on how and when the Trump administration would revive manned missions to the moon, or expand them to Mars. So this is mostly a symbolic gesture reinforcing existing, known sentiments within the administration.
Presidential Proclamation 113: Delaying Submission of the Small Business Administration Report under the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015
What It Will Do: On May 18, Trump announced his intentions to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by March 2018. In late June, the Small Business Administration (SBA) started convening a working group to analyze the potential impacts of this move on small businesses in America, and to feel out small business priorities and concerns for the trade deal, as per the provisions of the act mentioned in this proclamation’s title. This was the first time such a group had been assembled under this law, and would have been a major step in incorporating small business voices into major trade negotiations. The working group was expected to issue a report on small business priorities and concerns around this time of year.
However, in this proclamation, Trump issues a waiver that allows the SBA to delay issuing a report on potential impacts until after the trade negotiations have concluded. The idea is that the report will still be available for members of Congress before they vote on any final trade deal.
Who It Will Affect: This is a strange move from an administration that supposedly wants to renegotiate NAFTA to benefit small American businesses and workers. Small firms in America are spooked about the uncertainties of trade with neighboring nations that a NAFTA renegotiation represents, and many would like to have more of a voice in the renegotiation process. Delaying this report robs them of one vital avenue for input and increases that uncertainty. A delay may make it easier for the administration to negotiate quickly and on its own logic and terms. But it may undercut some of the supposed rationales underpinning the Trump trade agenda.
Executive Order 51: Revising the Seal for the National Credit Union Administration
What It Will Do: This order approves (and describes) the design of a new seal proposed by the National Credit Union Administration board for that agency. It also revokes an executive order from 1971 that described and approved the outgoing seal for the administration.
Who It Will Affect: Whoever decided the NCUA needed a new seal will appreciate this. It’s unclear that it has any greater impact than on agency self-perception, and maybe on seal wonks.
H.J.Res.123: Making Further Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017, and for Other Purposes
What It Will Do: This resolution averted a government shutdown on December 8, when a previous short-term funding deal brokered in early September was set to expire. It continues the previous funding levels for the government—but only through December 22. On that date, Congress is expected to hash out another short-term deal, funding the government through mid-January, when officials hope to strike a long-term deal for the rest of 2017. This resolution also makes provisions for officials to shuffle around existing funding between now and December 31 to keep Children’s Health Insurance Programs afloat in states where they were about to collapse. However, this is not a long-term solution, and CHIP (along with a number of other programs and issues) will need to be addressed at the end of this year, or early next year.
Who It Will Affect: This bill doesn’t do much but avert disaster and bitter debate for two weeks. All of the disputes and crises we covered a few weeks ago still remain in place. We could see two major funding battles over the next month; a shutdown is entirely possible.
Presidential Proclamation 112: [Proclaiming] December 7, 2017, as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation honors those who lost their lives or were injured in the December 7, 1941, attack on a military instillation in Oahu, Hawaii, by Japan. It also honors those who served in the war.
Who It Will Affect: Veterans groups and historical organizations across the country will mark this day with commemorations and informative events, as they always do.
Presidential Proclamation 111: Recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel and Relocating the United States Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem
What It Will Do: In 1995 Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, seeking to force the president to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by 1999; if this was not done, the building budget for the State Department would automatically be chopped in half. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital and keeps its state institutions there, although its control of the eastern half of the city, seized during a conflict in 1967, is highly contested and Palestine claims eastern Jerusalem as its own capital. As such, while some nations recognize Western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, few have acknowledged the nation’s overall claim and many keep their diplomatic services in Tel Aviv, forcing officials to regularly commute to Jerusalem, to avoid the perception of implicitly supporting Israel’s claim to the whole city.
Given the tense geopolitical situation, the Jerusalem Embassy Act has never been enacted. Even presidents who have voiced support for the move, like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have repeatedly used a clause in the Act allowing them to delay the move past 1999 for six months with no repercussions to avoid the risks associated with the potential shift. Trump quietly used this waiver authority on June 1, despite his campaign promises to move the embassy.
In this proclamation, though, Trump declares that he will relocate the embassy. This action does not actually initiate that move; Presidential Memorandum 111 (see below), signed at the same time, issues another six-month waiver. This just makes Trump’s intentions, which he calls a recognition of the de fact reality of Israel’s control of the city and governance from it, clear.
Who It Will Affect: This proclamation has no effect on the location of America’s embassy in Israel. But it is a loud signal, meant to appease Trump’s counterparts in Israel and appeal to his evangelical conservative base. Some have argued that this will destabilize any attempts at negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine, as it implicitly concedes a key bargaining chip to the Israel while giving nothing to Palestine and seems to show US impartiality. Really, there is actually no serious US-led peace process at work to destabilize. Still this sudden concession bucked warnings not just from many of Trump’s advisors, but from a number of America’s Arab and Muslim allies around the world, who see the legitimization of Israeli control of Jerusalem as a serious affront, if not a red line. It’s also led to massive protests in Palestine and across the Arab and Muslim worlds, which have led to crackdowns and injuries, and rebukes from a number of our Western allies. But not even everyone in Israel or among the US evangelical population is happy with this decision, for its threat to stability and goodwill in a peace process. And it’s not clear that this is one of the promises his base really cares if he keeps. So this is actually a huge global risk that could lead to violence in many nations and damage our international standing for minor domestic gains.
Presidential Memorandum 89: Suspension of Limitations under the Jerusalem Embassy Act
What It Will Do: This memorandum is just Trump continuing that delayed implementation of the act. However, on the same day he signed this, he issued Presidential Proclamation 111 (above), in which he made it clear that he intends to move the embassy eventually. Just not right now. Maybe in another six months.
Who It Will Affect: This action maintains the status quo with respect to America’s diplomatic presence in Israel. But this was completely undermined by the above proclamation.
Presidential Memorandum 88: Delegation of Authority Under Sections 506(a)(2)(A) and 652 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961
What It Will Do: Under the provision listed in this action’s title, the president is responsible for deciding when to draw down the allocation of resources for government and military education and training programs abroad, and then to direct that drawdown. Here, Trump abdicates that duty to the Secretary of State, directing him to make determinations and actions on $22 million in United States educational and training activities operating in Iraq at the moment.
Who It Will Affect: This is just the umpteenth instance of Trump shirking some of his more technical and hands-on duties to his cabinet. The actual implications of this action for US operations in Iraq remain to be seen.
Presidential Proclamation 110: Modifying the Bears Ears National Monument
What It Will Do: In December 2016, Obama used his authorities under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare the creation of the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, largely as a response to requests from regional Native American leaders for better protections for major cultural and historical sites on its grounds. In this proclamation, Trump points out that the Antiquities Act requires that the president protect only the smallest amount of land absolutely needed to protect a unique cultural or scientific site. His administration, he says, has determined that the monument actually covers many sites that are not unique or that have other forms of protection. So he here unilaterally reduces the size of the monument by 1,150,860 acres, or 85 percent of its current size, paring it down to two sites, including the Bears Ears buttes themselves. This is the largest-ever reduction of a national monument and, with the provisions in Presidential Proclamation 109, the first modification of a monument in over half a century.
Who It Will Affect: Trump made his animus toward Bears Ears clear almost from its inception. He construes many monuments as federal overreaches that limit local control over their lands. He shares this view with many conservative Western lawmakers, who have applauded this action. So there’s not a whole lot to change physically, on the ground, with regards to its management.
However, some observers suspect that it may now be subject to increased grazing or other forms of resource extraction that may risk the integrity of historical sites and significant landscapes. Local conservatives will argue this benefits regional economies without significantly impacting anything of real scientific or cultural value. However, it’s unclear at this point whether, or to what extent, released lands will be exploited.
Five regional tribes have banded together to file a lawsuit attempting to block this reduction. The suit will likely argue that presidents only have the right to establish, not reduce, protected lands under the Antiquities Act. However, this will require arguing that over 80 modifications made in the early 20th century, most of which were minor, were illegal. Conservation and tourism groups will also likely oppose changes to the monument, which they argue has cultural and economic value.
This and Proclamation 109 are likely only the start of a long battle over the president’s rights to reduce monuments. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Tuesday released the results of a review of 27 national monuments that Trump ordered in late April. He calls for the creation of three new monuments, but also for the shrinking of four more and altering the management of another six, likely to make development and resource extraction easier. All of those alterations will likely spark legal battles based on environmental and cultural concerns as well.
For More: Read about the Native American response to this action
Presidential Proclamation 109: Modifying the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
What It Will Do: In 1996, Bill Clinton used his powers under the Antiquities Act to create this 1.7-million-acre national monument on the grounds that the areas it covers contain unique and scientifically significant fossil deposits as well as other natural and cultural features. He may have been attempting to prevent imminent environmental damage linked to a planned coal mine. In this proclamation, Trump notes that the Antiquities Act requires Monuments only to include the minimum amount of land necessary to protect something unique or important. He argues that his administration has found many of the sites covered by this Monument are not unique. Therefore he unilaterally reduces its size by 861,974 acres, or about 46 percent.
Who It Will Affect: Most of the dynamics from Presidential Proclamation 110 (see above) apply here. Western Conservatives are hyped about what they see as a blow against federal overreach and a victory for self-determination and economic development. It’s questionable whether any coal mines or other extraction enterprises will open on the now less restricted lands, as it is still a remote and costly site for development. Conservation advocates worry that exploration, road development, and possible resource extraction could damage important or sensitive landscapes. Regional tourism operators worry that reducing the size of the monument could jeopardize a $78 million regional leisure industry. A coalition of environmental groups will challenge this reduction in court—part of the escalating challenge to the president’s authority to reduce National Monuments.
Presidential Proclamation 108: [Proclaiming] December 2017 as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 2012, this proclamation recognizes the prevalence and lethality of driving under the influence of a substance, usually alcohol. Trump’s text notes that about every 50 minutes there is a vehicular accident in the US involving an alcohol-impaired driver, that millions of adults admit to having driven drunk over the last month at any given time, and that despite gains in recent decades, 2016 marked the second year in a row when alcohol-impaired traffic accident fatalities increased in the nation. He calls on people to educate themselves on the risks of drunk driving and to pledge not to do it in the future. He also—in a bit of a stretch—claims that his anti-regulatory policies will help companies to develop innovative technology to cut back on drunk driving fatalities and that his vague pro-law stance will improve life-saving enforcement actions against drunk drivers.
Who It Will Affect: Government agencies and anti-drunk driving organizations will mark this month with education and awareness raising events nationwide.
Presidential Proclamation 107: [ Proclaiming] December 1, 2017, as World AIDS Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1993, this proclamation honors those who’ve lost their lives to the AIDS/HIV crisis since the first recorded case of the disease some 36 years ago. Trump’s text is almost a copy of Obama’s, albeit a little vaguer and briefer. It notes that, as of 2014, 1.1 million Americans were living with HIV and trumpets America’s suggests in reducing infections by 18 percent between 2008 and 2014. Trump then somewhat crassly frames this as a cost-saving success on lifetime medical expenses. He also boasts about America’s success in providing antiretroviral treatments and helping to reduce the spread of infections in several sub-Saharan African nations through foreign aid projects. He vows that his administration will continue to advance efforts to combat this global health crisis.
Who It Will Affect: Public health and AIDS/HIV-specific advocacy groups will mark this day with commemorations and educational or outreach events worldwide. However, many of these same groups are using the day to strike out at Trump. His proposed 2018 budget would have sliced into the foreign aid projects his proclamation lauds. His reinstitution and expansion of a rule that US aid money cannot go to clinics that provide or advise patients to seek out abortions will likely cripple many health service providers in at-risk communities. His moves to slash health program budgets in the US and to attack the Affordable Care Act create new risks for infection and mortality within the United States. To top it all off, the LGBT community has also used the day to attack Trump, as his proclamation did not, in contrast to years past, acknowledge the oversized burden the AIDS/HIV crisis has placed on their communities.
H.R.3949: VALOR Act
What It Will Do: Although the government encourages businesses to in developing apprenticeship programs to help veterans find employment or transition back into the workforce, some companies have found it difficult because they have to register their program with authorities in every state they operate in. This bill allows the programs to register in the state where a company has its headquarters or where it mainly operates the program. It also loosens a few other technical approval criteria to streamline approvals and assistance.
Who It Will Affect: This is a bipartisan and broadly supported measure that could make it easier for companies to develop programs helping vets find work.
H.R.3243: FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017
What It Will Do: In 2014, Congress enacted legislation that created a dashboard system within the Office of Management and Budget to make federal information technology investments more transparent. That legislation also created a system for regular reviews of the government’s IT portfolio and initiated a consolidation effort in federal data centers. However, the legislation put a sunset date on all of these initiatives. This legislation eliminates those sunset dates for all but data center consolidation efforts, making them permanent—and on that latter initiative, it extends the sunset date from 2018 to 2020.
Who It Will Affect: This legislation passed with unanimous support. No one’s going to oppose the good governance measure of transparency and clear review processes.
H.R.1678: FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act of 2017 What It Will Do: This bill requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make sure that it has an online grant application portal that provides assistance for applicants, allows them to check the status of their applications, and shares data where possible with states and localities to reduce the amount of duplicate materials an applicant needs to submit for disaster assistance.
Who It Will Affect: This is a bipartisan good governance measure that will likely perceptibly benefit, if carried out well, disaster relief fund applicants.
H.R.1545: VA Prescription Data Accountability Act 2017
What It Will Do: For some time, the Department of Veterans Affairs has reported secure data on prescriptions of controlled substances issued to veterans receiving care at VA facilities to state programs that track prescription practice in hopes of tackling opioid abuse. This bill clarifies that data-sharing authority, extending it to dependents and others treated at VA facilities and to prescriptions through outside facilities approved to work on the VA’s behalf. The hope is that this will make it easier to track and address veteran-linked opioid abuse.
Who It Will Affect: This is a bipartisan bill with strong support from veterans’ organizations. It may have a positive impact on tackling the national opioid crisis. It’s entirely unobjectionable.
H.R.194: Federal Agency Mail Management Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill tweaks existing laws to require the General Services Administration to provide more support and guidance in making sure that federal mail is sent out economically and efficiently. It doesn’t contain any real specifics on how that should be done, though.
Who It Will Affect: The measure is so light on details, it’s hard to say, in practical terms, what it will do.
H.R.304: Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2017
What It Will Do: Medical officials have long issued standing orders that allow emergency medical services personnel, like paramedics, to administer life-saving controlled substances, like anti-seizure medication or pain treatments, on the spot to patients they encounter in critical condition without direct physical supervision or permission. However, the validity of these orders has come under question due to developing DEA regulations. So this bill protects the right to issue those orders, and also clarifies clearly who can give them, how the DEA can grant permissions to issue them, and how controlled substances used by emergency responders must be stored and transported.
Who It Will Affect: This bill mostly maintains and clarifies a status quo. It has been hailed by emergency responder and other medical organizations.
H.R.3031: TSP Modernization Act of 2017
What It Will Do: Under existing rules, federal employees can only withdraw partial sums from their Thrift Savings Plans (TSPs), the fed’s retirement savings scheme, once at age 59 and once after leaving government service. This lack of flexibility has led many former employees to, in recent years, withdraw all their savings from TSPs and roll it into other retirement savings vehicles. To preserve the integrity of the program, this legislation allows multiple partial withdrawals linked to age or after leaving government service, and more flexibility in the timing and amount of periodic payments issued from those accounts.
Who It Will Affect: This is a widely supported bipartisan measure that will benefit the integrity of a key government savings program and the financial flexibility of federal employees.
Presidential Proclamation 106: [Proclaiming] Thursday, November 23, 2017, as a National Day of Thanksgiving
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1863, this proclamation marks Thanksgiving. Trump’s text recounts the rosy, whitewashed traditional story of the Pilgrims and American perseverance and reverence for god. It also takes a beat to honor the response of law enforcement, first responders, and others in the wake of a string of disasters this year.
Presidential Proclamation 105: [Proclaiming] November 19 through November 25, 2017, as National Family Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating to 1987, this proclamation emphasizes the importance of the family as a core social unit and family values as a lynchpin of American norms. Trump uses his text to hype up his tax plan, which he claims will make it easier for families to do whatever it is families do. He also insists that his administration’s approach to the opioid epidemic will help to strengthen America’s families and thus the nation overall.
Who It Will Affect: Family values groups across the nation will mark this week with events and commemorations. However, Trump’s text just draws more attention to his massively controversial and unpopular tax plan and anemic opioid response efforts.
Presidential Memorandum 87: Presidential Determination Pursuant to Section 1245(d)(4)(B) and (C) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2012
What It Will Do: The law mentioned in this memorandum’s title authorized new sanctions on Iran, but out of concerns for national security left open a loophole to temporarily freeze the imposition of sanctions on oil-related transactions if the president decides, after a regular review, that it’s too expensive or impractical to prioritize oil importation from other nations. This is just Trump saying we still don’t need to make that exception, so the sanctions can stay as are.
Presidential Proclamation 104: [Proclaiming] Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War
What It Will Do: Th Trump’s text recognizes the 500,000 Americans who served in Vietnam in 1967, as well as the 9 million who served over the course of the entire 13-year conflict. He honors the 58,000 who lost their lives and the 1,253 still missing in action.
Who It Will Affect: Veterans and Vietnam War-specific organizations across the nation will mark this commemoration, parallel to Veterans Day, with events and memorials nationwide.
Presidential Proclamation 103: [Proclaiming] November 13 through November 19, 2017, as
National Apprenticeship Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty since 2015, this proclamation recognizes the value of apprenticeships in helping employers find workers with the skills they need that do not often get taught at high schools or colleges. Trump touts his June executive order that seeks to expand the government’s apprenticeship promotion program and calls on businesses to use this week as a challenge, motivating them to develop their own apprenticeship programs.
Who It Will Affect: Businesses and trade groups may examine the issue of apprenticeships with renewed vigor this week, if not rise to the occasion of Trump’s challenge.
Presidential Proclamation 102: [Proclaiming] November 12 through November 18, 2017, as American Education Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating to the 1920s, this proclamation recognizes the vital role of quality education for all children to the realization of the American dream. Trump’s text puts the focus on parents and guardians as the primary guarantors of quality education, pivoting to his administration’s broad school choice positions. He also pats himself on the back for a number of proclamations and initiatives he’s signed promoting STEM education.
Who It Will Affect: National educator groups will mark this week, as will many parents and teachers, with events stressing the importance and development of robust education.
Presidential Proclamation 101: [Proclaiming] November 9, 2017, as World Freedom Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 2001, this proclamation marks the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which it touts as a symbol of the triumph of freedom over communism. Trump’s text calls, in boilerplate terms, for the acknowledgement of those who fight for freedom around the world and for the continued cooperation of nations around the world to fight radicalism and terrorism.
Who It Will Affect: Conservative groups tend to focus on this commemoration as signaling the virtues of liberal Western democracy over all other systems and venerating the ghost of Ronald Reagan.
Presidential Proclamation 100: [Proclaiming] November 11, 2017 as Veterans Day
What It Will Do: A presidential duty dating back to 1919, this proclamation marks the federal holiday (since 1938) named in its title. Trump’s text makes the standard notes about honoring the service of veterans and the importance of caring for them as a society even after a conflict ends. His text touts his dedication to rebuilding the American military and the legislation he his signed to date improving the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also puts a special spotlight on Vietnam War veterans, because he will soon be visiting Vietnam.
Who It Will Affect: Government bodies and veterans associations will mark the day, as usual, with commemorations and ceremonies nationwide.
Presidential Memorandum 86: Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction
What It Will Do: In 1994, Bill Clinton declared the risk of the proliferation of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction a risk to American interests and established a state of emergency in an executive order that slapped sanctions on individuals linked to that proliferation. Those sanctions were expanded in 1998 and 2005. The executive order establishing that state of emergency needs to be renewed every year for its sanctions to stay in effect, under law. This is Trump’s first renewal of that 23-year-old sanctions regime.
Who It Will Affect: This move just maintains the status quo.
Presidential Memorandum 85: Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Burundi
What It Will Do: In 2015, Obama decided that an outbreak of repression and political violence in Burundi was detrimental to American national interests and issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in the nation, imposing sanctions on those linked to the transgressions. Under law, for those sanctions to stick the president needs to renew that order every year. This is Trump’s first renewal of those two-year-old sanctions.
Who It Will Affect: This mostly just maintains a recent foreign policy status quo. But it will likely disappoint Burundian officials, who had hoped Trump would back off the sanctions.
Presidential Memorandum 84: A Letter from the President to the Congress of the United States [Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Iran]
What It Will Do: This is just Trump following a statutory requirement to notify Congress of his decision to extend sanctions on Iran in Presidential Memorandum 83, below.
Presidential Memorandum 83: Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Iran
What It Will Do: Soon after the Iranian Islamic revolution and related US hostage crisis kicked off in 1979, president Jimmy Carter issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Iran that posed a threat to American interests. The order imposed sanctions on individuals involved in the crisis.The order must be renewed every year. This is the latest renewal of those sanctions.
Presidential Proclamation 99: Honoring the Victims of the Sutherland Springs, Texas Shooting
What It Will Do: This proclamation honors the victims of the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and prays for the healing of their families and loved ones. It also calls for flags at federal properties, military facilities, and embassies to fly at half mast in commemoration of these victim until November 9.
H.R.1329: Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017
What It Will Do: Unlike Social Security benefits, Veterans Affairs payments do not rise automatically each year to match inflation. Congress must pass an annual bill enacting that cost-of-living adjustment. This is 2017’s iteration of that routine legislation. It boosts payments to vets with service-linked disabilities and their dependents by about 1 percent starting on December 1.
Who It Will Affect: This will impact millions of veterans and many more of their dependents. The increase is not huge—on average, a $25 boost per month. But it’s one of the largest increases of the decade; cost-of-living adjustments have been suppressed as an austerity measure across the government for years.
H.R.1616: Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill authorizes the operation of the Secret Service’s National Computer Forensics Institute (NCFI) through 2022. The NCFI trains state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officials in preventing and detecting cyber crime, and helps to equip their agencies with relevant materials. The bill also authorizes the Bureau of Justice Assistance to help law enforcement detect, investigate, and prosecute white-collar and cyber crimes.
Who It Will Affect: The NCFI has been operational since 2008 and has already trained thousands of agents across the nation. So this bill mostly maintains the status quo, while making it possible for perhaps a little more money to go towards white-collar crime operations.
H.R.2989: Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission Act
What It Will Do: This bill opens by recognizing Douglass’s exceptional rise from slavery to the forefront of the nascent American civil rights movement, as well as his vital role in abolitionism, contributions to the Union in the Civil War, and service in national government. It affirms that all Americans would benefit from learning more about and following the examples laid out by Douglass. The act creates a commission to plan and carry out federal activities to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his 1818 birth.
S.190: Power and Security Systems (PASS) Act
What It Will Do: Security systems, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide monitors, among other potentially life-saving electronic systems, have in the past been exempted from power efficiency standards that would have increased their prices substantially without much gain. These exemptions were set to expire this year. This act extends them to 2021 for some devices, 2023 for others.
Who It Will Affect: This is a pretty harmless continuation of the status quo with bipartisan support.
S.504: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2017
What It Will Do: In 1995, an idea emerged among members of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum that would see the creation of a special travel document allowing expedited customs proceedings for frequent business travelers. In 1997, a few states launched APEC Business Travel Cards, commonly known as ABT Cards. The United States was one of the last nations in the bloc to issue its own iteration on these cards; in 2011, Obama signed a law allowing American citizens to apply for them. These cards lasted three years at a go and were issued for a small fee that covered the costs of the program. In 2016, Obama signed legislation extending their duration to five years. In America, they allow travelers to speed through customs and border patrol, while in other nations they offer varied levels of expedited entry and act as pre-processed multiple-entry visas for 59 to 90 day stays. This program was temporary, though, and set to expire on September 30, 2018. This law makes the ABT Card program permanent.
Who It Will Affect: The codification of this program was a simple and bipartisan issue with strong business community support and will benefit tens of thousands of American travelers.
S.782: Providing Resources, Officers, and Technology to Eradicate Cyber Threats to Our Children Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill reauthorizes the national Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force program, which has worked to catch child porn distributors since 1998, through 2022.
Who It Will Affect: This just continues a program that no one would ever oppose for five years.
S.920: National Clinical Care Commission Act
What It Will Do: This bill creates the commission in its name, to be housed within the Department of Health and Human Services. It will explore ways to improve care available to individuals with diabetes, and perhaps other insulin-related autoimmune disorders, including improving the coordination and leveraging of federal programs relevant to the issue. Within three years of its first meeting, it will issue a report on all of its findings and recommendations on clinical care for individuals with diabetes. It will disband within 60 days of issuing this final report, or by the end of fiscal year 2021, whichever comes first.
Who It Will Affect: There’s been support for a body like this among diabetic care advocacy groups for some time. This move will earn some appreciation and respect from them, as well as other public health advocates and individuals with diabetes.
S.1617: Javier Vega, Jr. Memorial Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill names a border checkpoint in Sarita, Texas, after the individual named in its title. Vega served as a border patrol agent, primarily at this border control point, from 2008 to 2014, when he was killed while protecting his family from a violent robbery at the hands of two undocumented immigrants while on vacation. His death was ruled, after public pressure, a line-of-duty fatality.
Who It Will Affect: Vega’s family and community will appreciate this bill. He is apparently a local hero; a street in Sarita was recently named after him as well. Yet while the man’s memory and bravery deserve to be recognized, this recognition comes at a politically charged moment. Vega’s case has been a focal point for Breitbart and nativists, who see it as proof that illegal immigrants are often a violent threat to American safety.
H.J.Res.111: Providing for Congressional Disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of the Rule Submitted by Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP) Relating to “Arbitration Agreements”
What It Will Do: This is the first use of the Congressional Review Act, under which Congress can block a new rule from coming into effect by a simple majority vote, since mid-April. It’s also the 14th use of the CRA this year, and the 15th usage of the power ever.
In 2010, the BCFP, a body created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, initiated a study on “arbitration agreements.” These clauses, often buried in the fine print of financial services contracts, prevent consumers from suing companies for transgressions and bind them to use an arbitration system outside of the courts. The BCFP determined that these agreements are detrimental to millions of Americans, and often prevent companies from feeling full legal repercussions for their missteps. So in mid-July, it instituted a rule that would, starting in March 2018, have prevented companies from putting language into arbitration agreements preventing consumers from joining class action suits on transgressions. This resolution prevents that rule from taking effect, leaving arbitration agreements in full force.
Who It Will Affect: Advocates of the rule claim that its last-minute cancellation, by a 50-50 vote in the Senate—all 48 Democrats and two Republicans voted against it, with Vice President Pence breaking the tie—will benefit large financial institutions at the expense of consumers and of justice. It will prevent companies like Equifax from feeling the full potential repercussions of their failures. Financial institutions and most Republicans, however, view this as a victory against overreach by and flawed logic on the part of the BCFP. They also argue that blocking the rule will keep financial services costs low, benefitting consumers.
Presidential Proclamation 98: [Proclaiming] November 2017 as National Veterans and Military Families Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation honors the contributions of service members and the families who support and often have to find a way to get by for long stretches without them. Trump's text instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to take point on commemorating this month, and notes that his administration has made great strides over the last nine months in reforming that troubled agency to better serve this population.
Who It Will Affect: The VA will, as instructed, mark the month with events nationwide. Trump may choose to take a victory lap on his VA achievements, which are actually numerous. But his critics will use that celebration to point out that his VA is one of the strongholds of Obama holdovers in his administration, and that most of the successes in reforming the VA in his term are not his own achievements, but bipartisan measures that have long been in the works.
Presidential Memorandum 82: Notice Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Sudan
What It Will Do: In July, Donald Trump delayed a decision on whether or not to make the easing of some sanctions on Sudan initiated by the Obama administration. (See Executive Order 38.) In mid-October, Trump finally decided to make those changes permanent. However, this policy shift left a number of sanctions on Sudanese individuals and restrictions on Sudanese-American trade in place due to continuing concerns about the state of their government and its progress in rectifying human rights abuses. This text confirms that Trump does not think Sudan has made enough progress to lift those remaining sanctions and restrictions. So he indicates that he will renew them for another year.
Who It Will Affect: As with Trump's previous decisions on Sudan, this is a mixed bag. The Sudanese and American companies eager to explore its new markets will be dismayed that Trump didn't move beyond his initial openness to easing sanctions. Human rights groups and Sudanese dissidents will be happy he's not letting the country totally off the hook.
Presidential Proclamation 97: [Proclaiming] November 2017 as National Family Caregivers Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation honors the sacrifices of family members who often put parts of their lives on hold to care for chronically ill, disabled, elderly, or injured kin. Trump's text stresses that this dedication shows the value of respect for life at all stages and the importance of the family unit in society. He claims that his administration remains committed to finding ways to help caregivers.
Who It Will Affect: Caregiver groups will mark the month with events and commemorations.
Presidential Proclamation 96: [Proclaiming] November 2017 as National Entrepreneurship Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 2012, this proclamation honors the importance of entrepreneurship in the narrative of American character and to the national economy. Trump specifically celebrates female entrepreneurs, noting that there are 11 million women-owned firms in the nation, employing millions and generating over a trillion dollars in annual revenues. He stresses that his administration is, by cutting regulatory red tape and fighting in trade deals to protect American intellectual property, creating an environment in which entrepreneurship can prosper.
Who It Will Affect: Entrepreneur groups across the nation will make this month with events and celebrations. However some may use it to hit back at Trump, as entrepreneurs regularly note that his immigration policies are detrimental to the growth of small firms.
Presidential Proclamation 95: [Proclaiming] November 2017 as Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation emphasizes the importance of safeguarding vital infrastructure against accidents, attacks, capacity strain, natural disasters, and a host of other issues. Trump's text touts American infrastructure as among the most secure in the world, but points out that we've seen this year how natural disasters like hurricanes can still break through our defenses. He argues that his administration is making it easier for businesses to invest in infrastructure spending and relevant research and development through tax reform and deregulation.
Who It Will Affect: Various government agencies and infrastructure-related groups will mark this month with informational events. However Trump critics may use the month to point out how Trump has repeatedly failed to roll out his long promised infrastructure plan. Some may also point to Trump's phenomenal failures in responding to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico to question his commitment to the ideals he touts in this proclamation.
Presidential Proclamation 94: [Proclaiming] November 2017 as National Adoption Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1998, this proclamation honors the thousands of families who choose, every year, to give homes to children in need. Trump throws in some pro-life messaging, saying they prove that no child, born or unborn, is ever unwanted. He also notes that this year his administration will focus on promoting the importance of adopting older youths who often find it harder to find a home.
Who It Will Affect: Government agencies and pro-adoption groups with mark this month with informational events nationwide.
Presidential Memorandum 81: Temporary Certification for Certain Records Related to the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
What It Will Do: Trump had claimed he's committed to transparency on records related to the investigation of the 1963 assassination of JFK. In truth, the documents in question would have been released under the provisions of a 1992 law even if he hadn't lifted a finger. Trump only has the power under that law to delay the release of records on national security or foreign policy grounds. That's precisely what this text does. Trump here allows 180 days for the review of all redactions in released documents and calls for the declassification of anything that cannot be justified. He gives agencies until March 12, 2018, to apply for the postponement of the release of records they're still holding back, and says he will make a final decision on these records on April 26, 2018. This covers a couple hundred documents, containing thousands of pages, that were not released as part of the week's highly anticipated document dump.
Who It Will Affect: This is mostly a minor irritation to historians and a major boon to conspiracy theorists, who will seize onto any remaining redactions of postponed declassification to stay that something sinister remains uncovered. However, as most of the texts released parallel to this memorandum just reinforce what is already known about the assassination and the deficient investigation that followed, it seems unlikely this order will deeply affect on the average citizen's understandings of history.
Presidential Memorandum 80: For the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies [Regarding] Combatting the National Drug Demand and Opioid Crisis
What It Will Do: The memorandum calls on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare a public health emergency around the opioid crisis and take actions with the new powers that gives the agency. Specifically, HHS is expected to expand telemedicine services into rural communities, cut some red tape around grant money distribution, and shift some extant grant allocations towards the crisis. HHS can also tap into the Public Health Emergency Fund to address the crisis, but this chronically underfunded pool had only $57,000 remaining in it at the time this memorandum was released and there were no guarantees from Trump or his allies that it would be bolstered soon.
Who It Will Affect: While addiction services advocates welcome any progress towards addressing what has become a leading public health crisis, This action feels anemic to many, especially in light of his rhetoric on the issue. Trump has promised to throw resources into improving access to life-saving overdose treatments, the development of painkillers with a lower risk of abuse, and the expansion of treatment options—a massive national response that basically accords with what advocates believe is necessary.
Trump has dithered in declaring a crisis, long after his own commission on this issue requested it as the first and most important step in an interim report in July. That commission is expected to issue a report on November 1 that should become a blueprint for a more robust administrative strategy on the opioid crisis, but that report is a month behind schedule due to chronic staffing and support issues. Trump's HHS is itself understaffed, and his drug czar nominee had to withdraw from consideration after reports emerged about his apparent role in exacerbating the opioid crisis as a congressman.
H.Con.Res.71: Establishing the Congressional Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2017 and Setting Forth the Appropriate Budgetary Levels for Fiscal Years 2019 through 2027
What It Will Do: This resolution lays out a $4 trillion blueprint for spending in the 2018 fiscal year, though it is not legally binding. Its real practical function is that it triggers the reconciliation process, by which Republicans can pass tax cuts and a bill that would allow for oil drilling in an arctic preserve, with a filibuster-proof simple majority vote.
Who It Will Affect: This will energize Republicans, who see it as giving momentum to tax reform, their biggest legislative initiative. But triggering this process does nothing to overcome the many practical difficulties still facing tax reform efforts.
S.585: Dr. Chris Kilpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017
What It Will Do: Kilpatrick was a psychologist at a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, who was fired after questioning the overmedication of patients. He committed suicide the same day. Testimony on his death and related retaliations against VA whistleblowers led to this effort to improve protections for those disclosing violations of law, mismanagement of public resources, abuses of power, or public endangerment. Specifically, it makes it easier for employees appealing their termination to transfer out from under their previous supervisor while on probation, limits supervisors' access to employees' medical files, and requires all agencies to improve their training on responding to complaints of whistleblower protection violations.
It also establishes a procedure for examining whether suicides were related to retaliations for whistleblowing. It requires that supervisors found guilty of a prohibited personnel action be suspended for at least three days upon their first infraction, with higher punishments thereafter. Agency heads are responsible for making sure all new employees learn about whistleblowing protections and how to safely disclose sensitive information. The Comptroller General of the United States is ordered to author a report on retaliation against employees while on probation after an attempt to fire them. Finally, the bill contains a few miscellaneous VA-specific provisions: improving outreach on mental health services for VA employees and responses to threats made against employees.
Who It Will Affect: Any move to better protect whistleblowers and secure consequences for retaliations against them is generally seen as a commonsense good-governance move. This bill is no exception, and has been met with widespread support.
H.R.2266: Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017
What It Will Do: This bill started out as the "Bankruptcy Judgeship Act of 2017," a simple measure extending 14 temporary judgeships to special bankruptcy courts in seven states and Puerto Rico and adding four new temporary judgeships in three other states. These temporary positions typically last for five years. It also increased the fees debtors declaring bankruptcy have to pay to the United States Trustee System for handling their cases, although this fee expansion will only apply to certain cases. The fee increase would pay for the judgeships. It also made some small adjustments to technical details of the bankruptcy declaration process.
This uncontroversial measure was transformed in the fall into a vehicle for $36.5 billion in hurricane and wildfire relief, provisions for which were tacked on top of the bankruptcy judgeship elements of the bill. Specifically, the bill calls for a boost of $18.7 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's overtaxed Disaster Relief Fund, $4.9 billion of which will be made available as ow-interest loans targeted at Puerto Rico, whose debt crisis has made it difficult for the territory to borrow money to help it recover from the hurricane. Another $16 billion is debt erasure for the troubled National Flood Insurance Program, which has hit its congressionally-imposed borrowing cap while struggling to pay out claims. There's also $1.27 billion in the bill in nutritional funding assistance for Puerto Rico and $576.5 million for wildfire recovery for the American West. This brings total post-hurricane relief spending, following a first tranche in September, to $50 billion.
Who It Will Affect: This relief funding was uncontroversial; almost everyone agrees America should respond quickly and robustly after a natural disaster. However some disaster zone representatives were a little sour that the bill did not go farther—they expect tens of billions more in a third tranche of relief in November. Conservatives were miffed that this relief did not come with offset spending cuts to pay for its assistance, and indicates that there may be a serious standoff between these fiscal hawks and other legislators over that third relief tranche next month.
Presidential Memorandum 79: For the Secretary of Transportation [Regarding an] Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program
What It Will Do: This text recognizes the massive growth of private and commercial drones in the US in recent years. It also establishes the administration's position that expanding drone manufacture and applications could add tens of thousands of jobs to the US economy and lead to useful new consumer services, disaster relief, and security applications.
Toward these ends, it establishes the program named in the memorandum's title. Under the UASIPP, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will over the next 90 days solicit proposals from states, localities, and tribal jurisdictions to test out different ways of integrating drones into the US air system at altitudes of between 200 and 400 feet. Within 180 days, they will enter into agreements with at least five of these local governments, seeking to represent a diverse array of regions and projects, allowing them to test out their ideas and waiving extant regulations where possible to give them the freedom to do so. Each agreement will be worked out on a case-by-case basis, but must keep national security and personal privacy in mind. The programs must begin operations within 90 days of an agreement being established. New proposals will be considered to replace existing ones within a year of their slated termination.
The program will last for a total of three years. Throughout it's run and upon its conclusion, agencies will gather information from its projects to improve drone traffic-management systems, safety protocols, drone platform and system cybersecurity, and anti-drone response tactics. A final report on the program's findings will be issued within 90 days of its conclusion.
Who It Will Affect: This is one of Trump's rare widely appreciated orders. It allows for safe experimentation to facilitate what is essentially an unstoppable grassroots trend, moving beyond the allowances for drones the Obama administration instituted in a gradual and evidence-based way. It has earned the support of drone groups and companies interested in drone operations or manufacturing across the nation. However security and safety concerns remain. The extent of these concerns will depend on how liberally the FAA decides to waive restrictions.
H.Con.Res.85: Providing for a Correction in the Enrollment of H.R.2266
What It Will Do: This resolution just changes the name of the pending bill cited in its title to reflect the fact that it has been converted from a contained measure adding a few judges to bankruptcy courts temporarily to a fast-pass vehicle for post-hurricane disaster relief.
S.Con.Res.26:A Concurrent Resolution Authorizing the Use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for the Unveiling of the American Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Chair of Honor
What It Will Do: This resolution does exactly what it says in the title. Inspired by a chair left open at a NASCAR track in Bristol, Tennessee, Chairs of Hope are vacant chairs left in public venues to remember POW/MIA service members. They exist in venues across the nation, and last year Congress approved the placement of one in the Capitol. This just authorizes the use of one venue, which Congress has to green light for any purpose, for its unveiling.
Executive Order 50: Resuming the United States Refugee Admissions Program with Enhanced Vetting Capabilities
What It Will Do: Trump's March 6 iteration of his notorious travel ban instituted a 120-day suspension of the nation's refugee admissions program, during which officials were to review its vetting standards. Court injunctions delayed this ban until June, when the Supreme Court let it go into force. The ban then expired on October 24. This order responds to that review and expiration.
It resumes the refugee program, but notes that the United States has increased data collection, interview, and biometric check standards for refugee applicants. It also notes that the secretaries of Homeland Security and State can always reconsider what categories of people constitute a threat and institute adjustments to the administration of the program as they see fit.
The details of these shifts are not clear in the text, but reports indicatebut reports indicate that, for starters, refugees are now required to provide a longer history of their residences and more detailed contact information for their family members. Standards have reportedly been increased for what criminal records should lead to a denial of refugee status. The "Following-to-Join" program that reunites refugees with their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 in the US has been suspended. And 11 countries, believed to likely include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, are subject to a 90-day review. During the review, applications from these countries will be considered case-by-case.
Who It Will Affect: Refugee advocates believe these changes will slow down refugee applications. That's not great, as the world is in an unprecedented refugee crisis and America already had a massive applicant backlog and one of the world's strictest vetting policies in place. The freeze on family reunifications would have affected 2,500 refugees over the past year, about 5 percent of all applicants. The 11-nation review could effectively halt admissions to individuals from those nations, who made up 44 percent of the refugee population entering the US over the last year. As such, this order could at least halve the flow of refugees into the nation, targeting some of the hardest-hit and highest-need nations, predominantly Muslim areas. Many refugee advocates see this, and the slowdown increased vetting will impose, as a functional continuation of the program's suspension. They will likely launch numerous court challenges.
Presidential Memorandum 78: [Proclaiming] October 24, 2017, as United Nations Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1946, this proclamation recognizes the value of the UN in securing global peace, human rights, freedom, and national sovereignty. Trump's text claims the institution is more vital now than ever. Then it calls on member nations to live up to and reaffirm their commitments and boasts about America's leadership in guiding the UN response to North Korea, which seem to subtly reinforce Trump's longstanding position that the UN is freeloading off of the US.
Who It Will Affect: The UN and many member states will mark this occasion with events and commemorations. However the standard platitudes in this text will only serve to highlight how hypocritical they seem coming from Trump. He has made it clear that his "America first" agenda is in opposition to multilateral agreements between nations and international bodies.He's also been quite clear in stating that he believes the UN is an unproductive institution and wishes to wind down US involvement with it.
Presidential Memorandum 77:Notice Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Democratic Republic of Congo
What It Will Do: In 2006, President George W. Bush declared the conflict in the DRC a danger to American foreign policy interests, invoking sanctions powers against those involved in it in an executive order. The sanctions need to be reauthorized every year to stay in effect. In 2014, Obama not only reauthorized, but also strengthened them in a new executive order. In this order, Trump reups both actions for another year.
Presidential Proclamation 93: [Proclaiming] October 22 through October 28, 2017, as National Minority Enterprise Development Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation recognizes the contributions of minority-owned businesses to the national economy. Trump's text applauds such businesses for employing 8 million Americans, generating over $1 trillion in annual revenues, and exporting at a greater rate than the average American firm. But he uses the rest of his proclamation to boast about how good his administration and his as of yet un-finalized tax plan will be for this group.
Who It Will Affect: Minority business groups and firms will mark this week with events and recognitions.
Executive Order 49: Amending Executive Order 13223
What It Will Do: On September 14, 2001, President George W. Bush signed an executive order that, using executive powers granted to the presidency after the 9/11 attacks, expanded a fair bit of technical capabilities and leeway for the military to operate. This action amends that old order, making it easier for branches of the military to recall a wider swathe of retired officers back to active duty.
Who It Will Affect: This was expected to be used primarily to fill the Air Force's longstanding pilot shortage. The Air Force is vital to longstanding strategies against ISIS, and may be vital to Trump's proposed ramp up of action in Afghanistan against the Taliban as well. It is 1,500 pilots short of the 20,300 it needs to operate at full capacity, 1,000 of those being fighter pilots1,000 of those being fighter pilots. Many qualified pilots today prefer more lucrative and safe jobs in the commercial sector. However, the Air Force has stated that it does not intend to use this authority, raising questions about why the order was even promulgated. This may stoke fears that the order is a prelude to active military conflict with North Korea.
S.652: Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill reauthorizes a program supporting the early detection and treatment of deafness and hardness of hearing in infants and young children. It specifically adds that the programs should cover young children and makes a few technical tweaks, as well as laying out tens of millions in funding to keep it operational through 2022.
Who It Will Affect: A significant number of children are born every year with hearing issues, or develop them early in life; detecting and addressing this early yields substantial gains for children, putting them on a better platform to succeed in life. Maintaining this program is a no-brainer.
H.R.1117: To Require the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Submit a Report Regarding Certain Plans Regarding Assistance to Applicants and Grantees during the Response to an Emergency or Disaster
What It Will Do: This bill directs the head of FEMA to, within 90 days, share plans with key congressional committees on how to better provide guidance to disaster funding applicants on procedures to secure relief.
Who It Will Affect: FEMA does its best to make navigating its system as simple as possible for those who have suffered through a disaster. But after every crisis, it becomes clear that the process still has some hitches and flaws, as would any massive federal bureaucratic maze of processes. Pushing on FEMA to address those issues makes sense, and will hopefully reduce existing stresses and complications for future disaster victims.
S.178: Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This is a sweeping piece of legislation intended to increase the detection and prosecution of crimes against the elderly, especially physical and psychological abuse and financial scams. In it, the Senate acknowledges that most of these cases go undetected (by some estimates, only 2 percent of elder scams ever get reported), but notes that an estimated $2.9 billion is taken from the elderly every year in crimes, elders who suffer abuse are much more likely to die earlier than those who don't, and half of all people with dementia suffer at least one case of abuse. The bill is named after an elder abuse victim—a World War II hero from Connecticut whose son robbed him and left him penniless; he died six years ago in poverty.
The bill contains a host of provisions. But in short, it instructs the attorney general to create a resource group to share best practices for how federal prosecutors can handle elder abuse cases, craft model power-of-attorney language and best practices for improving proceedings on elder guardianship to prevent elder abuse, designate "elder justice coordinators" to field elder abuse cases and ensure data is collected on them, and work with federal, state, and local agencies to improve data collection on elder abuse crimes. The secretary of Health and Human Services is instructed to contribute data on abuse of elders within adult protective services, and the FBI is directed to train its agents to better handle these cases. The Bureau of Consumer Protection will get an elder justice coordinator to promote best practice. Also, laws on telemarketing scams are amended to include email marketing and stipulate that those convicted of these scams forfeit any money or material goods they acquired in the schemes, as well as any devices or technology they used to perpetrate them, to the state.
Who It Will Affect: This legislation will be appreciated by every elder advocacy group, as the massive scale of elder abuse and crime has become increasingly clear and concerning over the last decade, but many observers have worried that responses to date have not been systematic or serious enough. This is some of the strongest and broadest legislation on the topic. Hopefully it will lead to a real uptick in protections for and prosecutions of crimes against a particularly vulnerable and chronically neglected population.
Presidential Memorandum 76: Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Significant Narcotics Traffickers Centered in Colombia
What It Will Do: In 1995, President Bill Clinton enacted an executive order that used a national emergency to justify imposing sanctions on those involved in or doing business with those involved in Colombian drug trafficking. However the law that allowed those sanctions only authorized them for a year at a time; the emergency has had to be reauthorized annually. This is Trump's first re-up on this status quo.
Who It Will Affect: This just continues a 22-year-old policy.
Presidential Proclamation 92: [Proclaiming] October 15 through October 21, 2017, as National Character Counts Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1993, this proclamation observes the importance of developing character in American citizens, especially children—although even Trump's text recognizes how amorphous a concept "character" is. He mentions grit and integrity, and throws in a Ronald Reagan quote for good measure, then makes out a note about honoring the families, communities, and educators who help children to develop character.
Who It Will Affect: Groups across the nation will mark this week with events on how to develop character. However, for all but diehard Trump supporters, this proclamation will feel ironic and sad, as this year it comes from a flim-flam man with a proven track record of lying egregiously and a demonstrably selfish spirit, or put another way, an apparent lack of character.
Presidential Proclamation 91: [Proclaiming] October 15, 2017, as Blind Americans Equality Day
What It Will Do: An annual proclamation dating back to 1964—and originally known as White Cane Safety Day until Obama renamed it in 2011—this proclamation celebrates the achievements of visually impaired and blind Americans. It also recommits America to leading in global standards in creating opportunities for, respecting, and opening avenues for civic engagement with blind and visually impaired individuals. Trump's text doesn't mention any achievements or focus on civic engagement, though. Instead he hones in on the idea of finding employment for the blind, and uses the document as an opportunity to pat himself on the back for his so-called jobs plan, which he implies will somehow benefit the blind.
Who It Will Affect: Advocacy groups will mark this day with events about, for, and with blind and visually impaired Americans. As with every time Trump marks an event related to disability, this proclamation will focus attention for some on his apparent disregard for, if not outright toxic treatment of, disabled Americans, which this tracker has previously explored.
For More: Why the Deaf Community Fears President Trump
Presidential Proclamation 90: [Proclaiming] October 15 through October 21, 2017, as National Forest Products Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation recognizes the role the forest industry, forest products, and recreational forests play in our lives. Trump highlights especially the role the industry plays in rural job creation and highlights how the demand for forest products actually incentivizes the continual replanting of healthy forests—quasi-environmentalism.
Who It Will Affect: Forestry groups around the nation will mark this day with events and commemorations.
Presidential Memorandum 75: Delegation of Certain Functions and Authorities under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill offloads the responsibility for assigning and issuing waivers for sanctions on Iran and its citizens related to its missile program and human rights abuses, among other issues, from the president to the secretaries of Homeland Security, State, and the Treasury.
Who It Will Affect: This is just the third time Trump has offloaded responsibilities put upon him by this act, which he likely did not wish to sign. (See our write-ups of Presidential Memoranda 58 and 69 for more on this.) However this responsibility shirking is more focused on Iran than in the past, which seems odd, given how eager Trump seems to be to appear personally and directly tough on Iran and how he has reportedly clashed with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, among others within his administration, on his views on Iran.
Executive Order 48: Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States
What It Will Do: This long-awaited (and dreaded) order doesn't actually do anything concrete immediately. Mostly it instructs government officials to look into changing regulations to facilitate three discrete actions:
- Allow small businesses to form less restricted Association Health Plans (APHs). In the pre-ACA era, APHs allowed small groups nationwide to form associations to provide healthcare, but allowed them to pick which state's healthcare regulations to follow, leading to many plans that didn't cover much. As part of a broader crackdown on "skinny' plans, the ACA put restrictions on what groups could form APHs and essentially required that they meet certain benefit requirements. This text suggests that Trump would like to reverse these changes, allowing APHs to evade ACA requirements.
- Extend the periods people could get coverage under short-term limited-duration insurance plans (STLDIs) and make it easier to reapply for coverage. STLDIs exist to help people who know they will be going through life changes, like a job change, obtain insurance, but they tend to provide catastrophically low coverage. The ACA shortened the periods people could hold these plans from 364 to 90 days to encourage people to buy real insurance and made it much harder to reapply for this short-term coverage. These plans are not subject to the coverage requirements of the ACA, nor can they be paid for with ACA subsides. Trump seems to be angling to simply reverse these ACA restrictions.
- Make it easier for employers to provide their employees with health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), tax-advantaged accounts from which individuals can draw to pay health expenses. The ACA limited the types of expenses they could be used for; this action seeks to largely reverse those restrictions.
Who It Will Affect: We won't know exactly how the Trump administration decides to tweak existing regulations for months at least, and the full effect of this order may not be felt until 2019. However the intention seems fairly clear: Make it easier for people to buy plans that do not include the pre-existing conditions protections or coverage requirements of the ACA. These plans would be attractive to pools of young and healthy, thus low-risk, individuals, drawing them out of the ACA's exchanges. That would raise the premiums the increasingly sicker and older pool left behind in those plans. They would benefit the young and healthy in the short-term, but could leave them up shit creek if they ever suffered a major health event. As such, the order seems to be part of a calculated effort to implode the ACA, claim that it was always a failure, and force Democrats to the table to develop a replacement system Republicans would prefer.
Conservatives love this move, as they see it as aligned with their ideology on personal freedom. Democrats have decried it as needless cruelty in the name of partisan gains. Insurance and healthcare advocacy and industry groups hate it because it will sew uncertainty and instability within the market. And it may irk moderate Republicans who saw the importance of stabilizing insurance markets for the good of their constituents.
Presidential Proclamation 89: [Proclaiming] October 2017 as National Energy Awareness Month
What It Will Do: This proclamation is similar to past National Energy Action Month proclamations. However it focuses entirely on the administration's commitment to enact an "America First" energy plan. This, the text states, means a plan that turns America into an energy exporter by 2026 and encourages the exploitation of our coal, oil, and natural gas resources, as well as the development of hydroelectric, nuclear, and other novel energy projects and sectors. Trump touts increases in coal exports over the last year and moves to make America the top supplier of liquid natural gas. He also frames energy independence as an issue of national security importance. This is a clear re-articulation of his backward-looking policies, which fetishize old energy as a sign of old American industry and value, and which throw the primacy of green energy to the future of the economy, environment, and world to the wind.
Who It Will Affect: MAGA-heads will love this, as will old, dirty energy production groups. It will likely reinforce fears amongst environmental and clean energy groups.
Presidential Proclamation: [Proclaiming] October 11, 2017, as the 88th Anniversary of General Pulaski Memorial Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1926, this proclamation honors the legacy of General Casimir Pulaski, a Polish noble recruited to join the Revolutionary War effort after a failed bid at rebelling against Russian control of Poland. He served honorably in the war for independence and is credited with saving George Washington's life. He died due to wounds incurred in a battle with the British in October 1779; in 2009, he became one of only eight individuals to be granted honorary United States citizenship by Congress posthumously. The proclamation also honors the bonds between America and Poland and the contributions of Polish Americans and the 9.5 million Americans who claim Polish heritage to US culture. Trump's text mentions all of this, and basic platitudes, but contains no wider statements.
Who It Will Affect: Polish-American groups around the nation will mark this day with events.
Presidential Memorandum: Immigration Principles and Policies
What It Will Do: This is Trump's official outline of everything he wants included in any bill that would codify the protections for "dreamers," immigrants illegally brought to the US by their parents as children. It's basically a list of all of his immigration campaign promises, plus a raft of even more hardline conservative proposals that have been floated in the past. This includes funding for his wall, denying certain federal grants to "sanctuary cities," and reducing legal immigration.
Who It Will Affect: This series of over-the-top demands may be nothing more than a Trumpian opening salvo in negotiations on protections. However the administration has sent mixed signals on whether or not that is the case. It has not officially threatened to veto any bill that did not contain these provisions, nor prioritized any of them clearly. And Trump's months of flip-flopping on the issue of dreamers—and apparent reversal from his statements last month that he'd be open to narrow legislation protecting them—makes it hard to trust anything the administration says on this matter moving forward. So however serious this list may be, it will likely have the effect of souring all negotiations on dreamer protections and fueling a huge immigration debate in Congress in the coming months.
S.327: Fair Access to Investment Research Act of 2017
What It Will Do: Under existing Securities and Exchange Commission rules, brokerages issuing reports on stocks for potential clients cannot be sued for botching facts or omitting key details that might lead investors to make poor decisions. This act extends those protections to exchange-traded funds (ETFs), baskets of stocks and bonds traded like stocks on exchanges that have risen in popularity lately. The SEC has to develop "safe harbor" regulations facilitating this within 180 days and implement them within 270, and would not be able to take action for botched or omitting reports within that period.
Who It Will Affect: The financial sector supports this bill, arguing this will make it easier for them to provide clients with information about products they are interested in without fear of liability for incidental errors. However, consumer protection advocates worry this will make it easy for brokers to act in their own interest and against the interests of consumers in strategic ways with impunity. Congress seems to, on a bipartisan basis, side with the financial sector here.
H.R.2519: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
What It Will Do: This bill authorizes the United States Treasury to mint 50,000 $5 gold coins, 400,000 $1 silver coins, and 750,000 regular half-dollar coins commemorating the 1919 founding of the American Foreign Legion (AFL). It recognizes the AFL's historic role leading the push for veterans' rights, elevating and fixing problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs, and reacting to wider needs and disasters in American communities. The bill specifies that these coins will be legal tender. It is to be embossed with some kind of AFL-linked emblem, but the exact choice is left to the Secretary of the Treasury. It will be issued throughout 2019. The Treasury is authorized to sell the coins at surcharges of $35 for a $5 coin, $10 for a $1 coin, and $5 for a half-dollar coin, with proceeds going to the AFL. Allowances are made for reasonable discount prices for pre-orders before 2019 and for bulk orders.
Who It Will Affect: This coin will be appreciated by many in or affiliated with the AFL, as well as those touched by its works. It is also generating some enthusiasm in coin collection circles. Beyond that, though, this bill is supremely uncontroversial.
S.810: A Bill to Facilitate Construction of a Bridge on Certain Property in Christian County, Missouri, and for Other Purposes
What It Will Do: For five of the last seven years, and continually since July 2015, a one-lane bridge over the Finley River in the Ozark region of Missouri has been closed due to flood damages. Local officials want to build a new, wider bridge nearby. However the ideal site for this new bridge is closed to construction under federal regulations. This is the result of a deal struck between local officials and the feds wherein the latter supplied the former with funds to buy the Riverside Inn, a property repeatedly damaged by floods, and repaired at federal expense, and raze it. The restriction was meant to prevent new structures from imposing the same costs on taxpayers. However officials believe a new bridge is vital for local infrastructure, needs to be developed quickly, and can be developed without facing the same costly flood risks.
This bill waives those federal restrictions and allows the immediate development of the new bridge. However, it stipulates that this waiver of restrictions means that developers must ensure the new bridge will be resistant to flooding, and that the federal government will not provide future disaster assistance for the property or future improvements to it.
Who It Will Affect: The folks who will use this bridge will likely be happy..
S. 1141: Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill expresses Congress's belief that evidence shows the participation of women in efforts to prevent, mitigate, and resolve conflicts around the world lead to more robust results, especially in limiting violent extremism, countering terrorism, and stabilizing societies. However, Congress finds that women are underrepresented in these efforts. As such, Congress officially makes it American policy to promote female participation in these efforts in a meaningful way, and to promote this policy in other nations and with international organizations. As part of this, Congress seeks to promote women's safety, access to resources, and dignity worldwide, and to collect and analyze gender data to help better detect and respond to emerging conflicts, as well as to find new ways of analyzing and monitoring women's empowerment.
It specifically calls upon the president to develop a government-wide strategy on how to implement these goals, in consultation with other federal agencies and departments, including measurable goals, timetables, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Within two years, the White House is tasked with updating key committees on the progress of the new strategy's implementation.
Who It Will Affect: In theory, this could affect any number of individuals around the world and in the US government. However for now it just create a ton of work for just about every federal agency or department as they develop these new strategies, guidelines, and trainings. We will only get a sense for the potential practical impact of this new government policy once these reports start to emerge.
Presidential Proclamation 87: [Proclaiming] October 8 through October 14, 2017, as National School Lunch Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1962, this proclamation recognizes the value of making sure that American children are healthy and well fed, and the importance of our over 70-year-old school lunch programs in ensuring that they are. Trump's text notes that these programs operate in over 100,000 schools and residential child-care institutions, feeding 31 million children daily. He acknowledges research on the importance of a low-sugar and nutrient-rich diet for mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing and for learning in schools.
Who It Will Affect: Nutrition advocates and other organizations will host events and publicize resources throughout the week on the issues of healthy eating habits and child hunger. However it'll be hard for many to take this proclamation seriously coming from Trump, whose personal views on diet and exercise are so laughably unhealthy and unscientific that he is essentially the inversion of the messages school lunch programs try to send. His proposed 2018 budget would have also slashed funding to the federal agencies that help to bolster school lunch programs, and his Secretary of Agriculture has moved to loosen pro-healthy eating regulations on school lunch programs.
Presidential Proclamation 86: [Proclaiming] October 9, 2017, as Leif Erikson Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1964, this proclamation honors the voyage of the explorer named in its title, the first documented European to reach America around a thousand years ago, touching off a brief period of Nordic contact with a colonization in the far northeast of the continent. It also honors the contributions of Nordic Americans to US culture. Trump's text name drops a number of innovations, and praises the Nordic countries for their strong economic ties to the US as well as their role assisting America in its war on terror. He shares sympathies with a few Nordic cities that have suffered recent terrorist attacks.
Who It Will Affect: This proclamation is a point of pride for Nordic Americans, who have long felt overshadowed by Christopher Columbus and his day. Nordic American organizations will host events across the nation celebrating their culture.
Presidential Proclamation 85: [Proclaiming] October 6, 207, as National Manufacturing Day[Proclaiming] October 6, 207, as National Manufacturing Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation recognizes the historic and modern importance of a vibrant manufacturing industry to America's economic prosperity. Trump's text notes that in 2016 manufacturing made up 11 percent of GDP and employed 12 million workers. He also praises technological innovations in modern manufacturing. Predictably, he closes by claiming that past administrations have allowed manufacturing to decline in the US and promises that his jobs, tax, and trade policies will bring classic manufacturing jobs back to America—basically rehashing the core of his campaign.
Who It Will Affect: Factories and manufacturing groups nationwide will hold events showcasing the state and speculating on the future of American manufacturing. Trump's rhetoric will rev up his base, as it always does.
Presidential Proclamation 84: [Proclaiming] October 8 through October 14, 2017, as Fire Prevention Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty since the 1920s, this proclamation recognizes the dangers of fires, noting that 1.4 million blazes broke out in the US last year and that they caused 3,360 deaths and 15,700 injuries in 2015, the last year for which data was available. It also stresses the importance of mitigating these risks through prevention and preparedness efforts, like minding stoves, campfires, fireworks, and cigarette butts. Trump's text also acknowledges the forest fires that have plagued the American West this summer, destroying at least 650 buildings. And he stresses the importance of working smoke alarms and plans for how to escape a fire allowing for two exits that children can memorize and low mobility individuals can utilize.
Who It Will Affect: On October 8, federal facilities will fly their flags at half-mast in memory of the citizens and firefighters who have died due to blazes. Throughout the week, fire awareness groups will host events to help people bone up on their preparedness and prevention skills.
Presidential Proclamation 83: [Proclaiming] October 9, 2017, as Columbus Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty since 1934, this proclamation acknowledges the "daring and ambitious" voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Trump's text ignores controversies about Columbus, from the fact that he wasn't the first European to make it to America to the fact that he was a rapacious moron, in favor of painting him as a symbol of grit and ingenuity in the face of doubt and adversity. Unlike Obama, he makes no mention of Native American communities and Columbus's effects on them, by way of disease, genocide, and mass enslavement. He does use this text to praise the contributions of Italian Americans to the nation, though, and to reaffirm the value of America's alliance with Italy as a partner in global peace and prosperity.
Who It Will Affect: Trump will invoke massive ire by backtracking on prior acknowledgements of the horrors of Columbus's legacy. That's especially true as this retrenchment into simplistic fantasy comes as states and cities increasingly abandon the celebration of Columbus Day, many of them in favor of Indigenous People's Day.
Presidential Proclamation 82: [Proclaiming] October 6, 2017, as German-American Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential proclamation dating back to 1983, this proclamation marks the anniversary of the foundation of the first German-American settlement in what would become America: Germantown, Pennsylvania, founded in 1683 by 13 families from Krefeld, Germany. It further honors the contributions of millions of German immigrants to American culture and history, as well as the 44 million Americans who claim German heritage today. Trump's text name-drops a ton of German-Americans, and nods to his own descent from a German immigrant.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who wants to celebrate German-American heritage and culture can do so at events throughout the nation.
Presidential Memorandum 73: Integration, Sharing, and Use of National Security Threat Actor Information to Protect Americans
What It Will Do: This text, addressed to over two dozen agency heads and presidential aides, is a very long-winded and legally cautious instruction to a few cabinet members and intelligence community officials to start exploring new technological tools to better aggregate, share, and analyze information on national security threat actors. The new framework should protect the integrity of that information, as well as the rights and liberties of individuals it pertains to, and should regularly be monitored by the folks who devise it in case it needs to be amended or scrapped.
The secretary of Commerce specifically is tasked with interfacing with the intel community to develop models for information exchange and usage, while the Director of National Intelligence will work with the community to improve the machine readability of their data. The director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy will work with other agencies to sync federally funded research and development with the needs of this new framework. Within 270 days, the attorney general, director of National Intelligence, and secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security are to present the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism with a report on their plans for the new framework and how to implement it.
Who It Will Affect: This is a basic government and security efficiency move. It's also entirely speculative and vague at this point.
Presidential Proclamation 81: Honoring the Victims of the Tragedy in Las Vegas, Nevada
What It Will Do: This brief text expresses Trump and his administration's mourning for the 59 killed and 520 injured in the mass shooting in Las Vega.
Who It Will Affect: Trump has received praise for his quick and uncharacteristically measured response to this incident (a low bar, to be sure).
Presidential Memorandum 72: Determination with Respect to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008
What It Will Do: Under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, the United States does not provide military assistance or funding or weapons and equipment sales to countries that use child soldiers in their militaries or support paramilitary forces that do so. But the act allows the president to waive that block if he deems doing so to be in America's interest. Here, Trump waives these limits on Mali and Nigeria entirely, and on the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan where funding is used for peacekeeping operations, and on Somalia where funding is used for military training assistance and peacekeeping operations.
Who It Will Affect: These waivers are not unusual; in recent years the Obama administration also offered similar partial or full waivers to a similar roster of nations, with slight year-to-year differences. However, they have long come under criticism from human rights groups that see them as fundamentally undermining the spirit of the law.
Presidential Memorandum 71: Determination with Respect to the Efforts of Foreign Governments Regarding Trafficking in Persons
What It Will Do: The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 bans the issuance of non-humanitarian and non-trade-related aid to nations not seen to be doing enough to combat human trafficking in their territories. Every year, the president has to declare which nations he recommends for inclusion and whether there should be any limits or waivers on the type of aid bans imposed on them.
Here, Trump lays out his first judgments: He bans non-humanitarian or –trade-related aid for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, South Sudan, Sudan, and Venezuela in fiscal year 2018, unless and until the State Department determines any of these nations have made sufficient progress in addressing human trafficking. He denies cultural or educational exchange aid to Eritrea, North Korea, Russia, and Syria for the same period and with the same caveats, and instructs US agents at development funds and banks to vote against loans for Iran, North Korea, and Russia. He provides waivers for the DRC, South Sudan, and Sudan for wide swathes of non-military aid; for Equatorial Guinea for energy accessibility, environmental, infectious disease elimination, and youth leadership programs; for Venezuela for health and pro-democracy programs. He also says that some cultural and educational exchange aid should still be allowed to go to Eritrea, Russia, and Syria. He also waives the application of the act to Belarus, Belize, Burundi, the Central African Republic, China, Comoros, the Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Finally, he allows American representatives on development funds to continue to vote for loans to the DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Venezuela.
Who It Will Affect: As with the above memorandum, it is standard for presidents to issue waivers for nations under this Act, and this is likewise criticized by advocacy groups as undercutting its effectiveness. The main novelty here is that Trump has added the DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, South Sudan, Sudan, and Venezuela to the list for the first time, and increases restrictions on aid to Eritrea, North Korea, Russia, and Syria. The justifications for and implications of these additions are not entirely clear, although they will likely increase tensions already on the rise in the Trump era between the US and Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela especially.
Presidential Proclamation 80: [Proclaiming] Monday, October 2, 0217, as Child Health Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1928, this proclamation expresses America's commitment to the idea that all children deserve happy, healthy childhoods, and that providing this is a test of society's values. Trump includes a pro-life statement in the form of language on the sanctity of all children's lives, born or unborn. He also claims his administration will bolster children's health, noting that this (largely rejected) 2018 budget would have boosted grants for some critical maternal and child healthcare services by $30 million. He also nods to his stated goal of fighting the opioid crisis, shoehorning that in as a children's health issue due to the number of infants now born with opioid dependency.
Who It Will Affect: Any number of organizations will mark this day with events and by distributing information on children's health resources. However Trump's claims to be a beneficial force for children's healthcare should spark outrage from any who engage it. His budget actually would have massively cut the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid services that collectively serve about a third of all American children. He also apparently did nothing to prevent the expiration of CHIP at the end of September. This expiration could put millions of children's health at risk within months if there is no further action.
Presidential Proclamation 79: [Proclaiming] October 2017 as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
What It Will Do: Another annual presidential duty, this proclamation declares the government's solidarity with those dealing with breast cancer and remembrance for those who died because of it. Trump notes that 250,000 women and 2,000 men will likely be diagnosed with the disease in 2017, applauds advances in detection and treatment that have drastically reduced fatalities in the last decade, and commits his administration to advancing research on innovative treatments.
Who It Will Affect: Organizations nationwide will mark this month with numerous events and educational campaigns.
Presidential Proclamation 78: [Proclaiming] October 2017 as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating to 2004, this proclamation acknowledges that all American citizens, industries, and governmental bodies are vulnerable to cyber attacks. Trump acknowledges that these attacks seem to be on the rise. Trump calls on all Americans to reflect on this threat and educate ourselves on how to address it. He also applauds himself for his May 11 executive order, aimed at strengthening cyberseucrity, and claims his administration is promoting a more free and prosperous internet.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who wishes to heed Trump's call and learn more about the threats of cyber attacks can do so thanks to numerous governmental resources exploring the topic. However this proclamation too will likely irk quite a few cyber security experts. On the campaign trail, Trump showed a clear lack of understanding about "the cyber." His cyber security executive order was seen as basically fine, but took months longer to roll out than had been expected; it is unclear if the administration is making good progress on the reports that order commissioned, or what policy changes it could ultimately lead to. (This in spite of promises that Trump would deliver a robust new cyber policy within 90 days of his inauguration.) A number of key cyber security advisors also quit a White House council in August, both in reaction to Trump's response to the white supremacist attack in Charlottesville and to the perception that the administration is not taking cyber security seriously enough.
Presidential Proclamation 77: [Announcing an] Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts
What It Will Do: This bizarre, tiny proclamation does just what it says in the title: announces Trump's intention to nominate five different individuals to important positions in his government. These types of announcements usually come via an unofficial announcement or White House blog post, not an official proclamation.
Presidential Proclamation 76: [Proclaiming] October 2017 as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1989, this proclamation calls on all Americans to promote the right liberty and safety for women, children, and men from the violence, intimidation, and controlling behavior too many are subjected to. Trump acknowledges that, while domestic violence has declined in the past two decades, still nearly one in four women over the age of 18 will suffer from it at some point in their life. He notes that his departments of Health and Human Services and of Housing and Urban Development are hard at work on projects to help those suffering from domestic violence, like bolstering shelters and hotlines, and that his Department of Justice's Office of Violence Against Women provides hundreds of millions in grant dollars to help combat domestic violence via law enforcement.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who wishes to learn more about domestic violence in America today and how to address it can attend any number of events put on by groups nationwide this month. However this proclamation may well strike many as hypocritical coming from Trump. While he lauds standard government actions on domestic violence, his proposed 2018 budget would have slashed vital services for victims and those trying to help them. His deportation policies have arguably worsened domestic violence in immigrant communities, showing where his priorities lie. And to top it all off, he and others in his circle have been accused of domestic violence in the past, although these allegations are unproven.
H.R.3823: Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill is a hodgepodge of three major but entirely distinct actions:
- It reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) until March 31. This keeps airport improvement and construction, basic research and development, navigation facilities and equipment, and rural airport assistance funded and functional a while longer and temporarily staves off involuntary agency worker furloughs.
- It extends the authorization and funding for federal healthcare programs that benefit rural areas, Native American communities struggling with diabetes, and patients with weakened immune systems
- It provides several tax breaks for individuals affected by recent southeastern hurricanes.
Who It Will Affect: This bill passed in large part because it was stripped of everything controversial it could have included and contained only vital programs that needed short-term extensions or that will clearly help individuals and areas hit by a natural disaster. Earlier versions of the bill attempted to grapple with the idea of privatizing some or all of the FAA's operations, something Trump has stumped for but that has faced staunch Democratic opposition and split the GOP. It also originally contained provisions that would allow the creation of private flood insurance markets, which some lawmakers see as a key reform, but which Democrats and some coastal Republicans oppose because it could undermine the extremely broken National Flood Insurance Program in favor of private programs that may not help all the individuals who need flood insurance and assistance. The bill also conspicuously and mysteriously failed to extend authorizations and funding for two key healthcare programs, the Children's Health Insurance Program and Community Health Centers, which expired the day after this bill was signed into law.
S.1866: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria Education Relief Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill allows the Secretary of Education to waive requirements on fund matching for two key grant programs for higher education institutions that were in the path of recent devastating southeastern hurricanes, or that host students from affected regions. This would make it slightly easier to shuffle around about $17.5 million in grant money to respond to higher education facilities, public and private, hit by the disaster.
Who It Will Affect: In the grand scheme of hurricane relief, this is a minor action. But it is relatively uncontroversial and will be appreciated by schools and students in or from affected areas.
H.R.3819: Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill extends funding and authorization for a bevy of Veterans Affairs programs and authorization for several of the agency's funding mechanisms.
Who It Will Affect: This bill maintains existing functions for an agency for which there is widespread, bipartisan support. It is uncontroversial, but appreciated.
Executive Order 47: On the Continuance of Certain Federal Advisory Committees
What It Will Do: Under the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, groups formed by executive action, rather than by law, to study and provide policy advice on key issues can only convene for two years at a time. At that point, they have to be revived by a new executive action for another two years, or they lapse.
This is Trump's first continuation of these two-year advisory committees. It maintains 32 bodies already in existence, from the President's Export Council to the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science. However it leaves off about a dozen committees that Obama had continued in bi-annual executive order on this subject in late September.
It also ends the Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure that Trump created via executive order on July 19. That council had already fallen apart in August, after business leaders involved quit en masse in response to Trump's handling of the white supremacist domestic terror incident in Charlottesville.
Who It Will Affect: Since this order mostly continues the status quo, its effects will mainly be felt where it allows committee terms to lapse. However even those effects will be hard to gauge, as many committees or councils are mostly symbolic.
Executive Order 46: On the Revocation of [the] Executive Order Creating Labor-Management Forums
What It Will Do: In late 2009, Obama signed an executive orderan executive order creating the forums mentioned in this order's title, reviving a Clinton-era policy nixed under George W. Bush. The idea was to use these forums to improve labor-management cooperation and reduce adversarial negotiations to increase the efficiency and quality of the federal workforce. The forums earned the respect of federal workers' unions and seemed to be improving the quality of labor-management relations. This order claims that those forums were a waste of taxpayer money. As such, it officially revokes Obama's order, killing these forums.
Who It Will Affect: Some agencies will likely choose to retain their forums as a matter of internal policy, and many of the agreements and relationships fostered over the past eight years will endure. However this will overall enable a return to a more adversarial and less productive mode of interacting between federal workers and their managers.
Presidential Memorandum 70: Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2018
What It Will Do: This action caps the number of immigrants who can enter the United States between October 1 and September 30, 2018, at 45,000. It allots 19,000 of those slots to people from Africa, 17,500 from the near East and South Asia, 5,000 from East Asia, 2,000 from Europe and Central Asia, and 1,500 from Latin America and the Caribbean, with the caveat that excess spots allotted to one region can be used to accommodate individuals from another in case of a new crisis. It explicitly does not allocate a reserve quota, independent of region, to respond to unforeseen circumstances or new crises, as past refugee caps have done.
Who It Will Affect: There are an unprecedented 65 million people displaced across the world, and yet this is the lowest refugee cap number since America began setting them. In 1980, the US took in about 231,000 refugees, mainly Russian Jews and Vietnamese "boat people." In the 1990s the US was taking in more than 100,000 people a year in response to the Balkan wars. During the 2000s, before the Syrian refugee crisis broke out, the refugee cap hovered around 70,000 to 80,000.
Obama moved the cap up to 85,000 in 2016 and planned to increase them to 110,000 in 2017, but soon after taking office, Trump used his travel ban orders to chop that number down to 50,000, undercutting a previous record low of 63,000. This latest move is just Trump continuing on his anti-refugee trajectory.
Some of Trump's more anti-immigrant aides reportedly wanted the cap set as low as 15,000, while Homeland Security wanted 40,000 due to their existing backlog in asylum applications. This seems to be a compromise cap between Homeland Security and the State Department, which lobbied for sticking with the 50,000 cap. But the fact that Trump apparently did not talk much to refugee groups, or members of Congress who are usually consulted on these issues, suggests that this anti-refugee push is going to continue.
Presidential Memorandum 69: For the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Director of National Intelligence [Regarding the] Delegation of Certain Functions and Authorities under the Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act of 2017, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, and the Support for Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014
What It Will Do: This action offloads a slew of presidential responsibilities related to assigning or waiving Russian sanctions authorized by law onto the Secretaries of State and the Treasury. To name just a few, Trump outsources his responsibilities for handling sanctions or travel bans on individuals aimed at reducing Russian cyber attacks on the US, reducing Russian intervention in Ukraine, fighting corruption and human rights abuses in Russia, and hindering usually Russian support for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Who It Will Affect: The same notes from Presidential Memorandum 58, signed on September 8, apply here: For the most part, this is just more disengagement from the nuts-and-bolts of governance by Trump. However given his ongoing Russia investigation woes, deciding to step away from direct involvement with sanctions targeting Russian officials and industries is odd.
Presidential Proclamation 75: [Proclaiming] October 2017 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1945, this proclamation celebrates the contributions of Americans with disabilities to the national workforce. Trump acknowledges that it can be difficult for America's 30 million disabled adults to find employment; in 2016, he notes, their unemployment rate was 27.7 percent, far above the national average. He calls on employers to acknowledge the value of their unique perspectives and individual talents, and claims that his get-people-back-to-work administration will help to find ways to make it easier for this segment of the population to enter the workforce. He says his Department of Labor and Social Security Administration are exploring effective strategies to help people with disabilities stay in or return to work, especially just after an injury or health issue, but gives no details.
Who It Will Affect: For those who wish to explore employment options, or learn more about employing disabled individuals, tools are via the Department of Labor and will be promoted throughout the month by events and other advocacy by that agency and other groups nationwide. However, as we have noted previously, it will be hard to take Trump's words on disabled Americans seriously, given his conduct with respect to them and how his legislation affects them to date.
H.R.3110: Financial Stability Oversight Council Insurance Member Continuity Act What It Will Do: The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to watch over the stability of the US economy. It is composed of ten voting members, including an independent insurance expert appointed by the president, and five non-voting members. Due to a glitch in the language of the law, it was unclear if the insurance expert would be able to serve in an acting capacity once his or her term was up, assuming a successor had not been named and confirmed. This bill clarifies that he or she can, for up to 18 months or until a successor is in.
Who It Will Affect: The FSOC and the current insurance expert on it, whose term was set to expire on September 30 and for whom Trump has not named a successor. It's a technical fix that will allow the FSOC to continue chugging along, and as such was an easy, bipartisan bill, despite GOP rage at the original law creating the council.
Presidential Memorandum 68: Delegation of Authority under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017
What It Will Do: This memorandum foists Trump's responsibility, under a section of the bill that kept the government open between May and the end of this month, for authoring a report on a strategy for US operations in Syria off onto the Secretary of State. It also tasks the Secretary with authoring any substantively similar reports required of him by future laws.
Who It Will Affect: This mostly creates new work for the Secretary of State and removes responsibilities from Trump. It also continues a clear pattern of Trump offloading his war planning responsibilities on others, after a campaign spent insisting that he and only he had all the best ideas for solving America's conflicts abroad.
Presidential Memorandum 67: Increasing Access to High-Quality Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education
What It Will Do: This memorandum starts by laying out the established reality that STEM education is increasingly vital to securing solid jobs in the modern economy, and to the future of US economic viability. However, most primary and secondary schools lack solid STEM courses, especially in computer science (CS); the problem is far more pronounced in majority minority and rural areas, and there is a significant gender gap in engagement with STEM and CS courses where they are offered. So this action makes it policy for the Department of Education (DoE) to prioritize helping school districts to train and recruit teachers who can help them develop STEM programs, with a focus on CS. It instructs the DoE to take these priorities into account with divvying out grant money in 2018 and beyond. And it sets a goal of allocating $200 million from existing funds for the DoE in 2018, within 30 days of the passage of a Congressional budget for the Department, to grant funding furthering these goals. The DoE must issue a plan on how it will make this allocation to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Department is instructed to develop guidelines and identify technical assistance resources for the development of strong CS courses. It is finally tasked with issuing a report within 90 days of every new fiscal year to the OMB on its progress on these priorities and how relevant grants have been spent.
Who It Will Affect: In the short term, this will just create a bit of shuffling and reporting work for the Department of Education. It will also garner some positive press for Ivanka Trump, who reportedly spearheaded this initiative, bolstering the narrative of her beneficent and progressive influence on an otherwise vindictive and regressive White House. Education experts have greeted the move with some cautious optimism. But Trump's 2018 budget proposal included a $9 billion cut to the Department of Education, including the total elimination of a substantial grant program targeted at these same goals. Congress did not match this level of cuts, but their budget looks set to hack away at pro-STEM and –CS grants and initiatives far more than this (by the president's own admission) paltry reallocation of sliced funds can hope to even compensate for.
Presidential Proclamation 74: Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats
What It Will Do: Writ short, this is Trump's newest travel ban. But unlike the previous ban issued on March 6, this is not another rehash of Trump's poorly planned, disastrously executed, and ultimately axed initial travel ban from January 27. It is a new product, ostensibly the result of a study establishing new baselines for the information the US wants to be provided with to vet foreign travelers and immigrants. Administration officials determined that eight nations either lacked the capacity or the will to comply with new American baselines: Chad, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Venezuela, and Yemen. Officials issued a report to the president and his assistants recommending that seven of these nations should accordingly face travel restrictions. They left Iraq (which was part of Trump's initial January travel ban) out noting that, despite its capacity issues, it is special, thanks to the US presence in the country and its importance to American interests in the Middle East. (This action also drops the first two travel ban's restrictions on Sudan, which was seen as suitably willing to improve its data sharing.) Officials also decided that, while Somalia theoretically meets information-sharing requirements and is willing to improve, it should still face restrictions given the terror threat in the nation and limits on its government's control of the nation.
This proclamation enacts tailored travel restrictions on Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. These restrictions are not time-capped as in the previous travel bans, but will stand until officials decide that circumstances have changed in these countries' capacities or willingness to comply with new American baselines for information sharing and recommends that Trump lift travel restrictions on them.
The proclamation lays out a few vague justifications for the specific restrictions on each nation, but notes that providing full justifications would jeopardize national security. It also provides the following breakdown of what indefinite restrictions apply to which of the listed nations:
Chad, Libya, and Yemen: There will be no new immigration and most tourist and business travel visas are suspended.
Iran: There will be no new immigration and all travel visas are suspended save for certain student and exchange visitor visas. People on those visas will face more vetting and screening.
North Korea and Syria: There will be no new immigration or non-immigrant travel.
Somalia: There will be no new immigration and visa applications for all non-immigrant travel will face new levels of scrutiny.
Venezuela: New immigration and non-immigrant travel for most business and tourism is suspended, but only for certain members of the administration and their families.
These new restrictions come into effect as of the signing of the order for people already covered by the March 6 travel ban, which was partially unblocked by the Supreme Court and put into force in June. (Its provisions expired on the same day that this new proclamation was issued.) It applies to all of the newly named individuals starting on October 18, 2017.
The proclamation makes clear it does not apply to lawful permanent residents or foreign nationals already in the United States on visas as of its effective date. Nor does it apply to dual nationals of the listed nations traveling on another nation's passports, to those traveling with diplomatic visas, to asylum or refugee status grantees, and other special cases.
The text notes that officials may grant case-by-case waivers to these restrictions, based on pending guidelines from the Department of State, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, for people who have a reason to be in the United States and pose no clear threat to the nation. It suggests this could include students outside the US returning to complete their studies or other activities, individuals who need to come to the US for major business or professional obligations, those who wish to visit or reside with citizens or permanent residents, infants or young children, adoptees of those coming to the US for vital medical care, those employed by the US government in some capacity or by major international organizations with business in the US, Canadian permanent residents of restricted nationalities applying for US visas from Canadian locations, those traveling on American-sponsored exchange programs, those traveling to the US at the behest of a government agency, and more.
Within 180 days of this proclamation, and every 180 days thereafter, Homeland Security, in consultation with the Departments of Justice and State and the National Intelligence Agency, are to issue a report recommending amendments to these restrictions based on continued engagement with the nations in question. These agencies are also tasked with issuing reports to the president on steps the US has taken to improve its vetting processes and general screening measures.
The text also confirms that those who had their visas canceled or revoked thanks to the January 27 hash of an attempted travel ban are still entitled to travel documents permitting them to come to the US. It specifies that it does not say anything about refugee or asylum programs. And finally, it contains a clause making sure that if any court strikes down or blocks one part of the new ban, the other parts should still be able to remain in full legal force regardless.
Who It Will Affect: Reuters estimated the restrictions would have applied to 72,000 people who immigrated or traveled to the US in 2016. About half of those individuals were from Iran, so that nation will likely feel the brunt of this order. Conversely, North Korea and Venezuela will face the fewest consequences; the former only saw about 110 people visit or immigrate to the US under covered categories last year, while the latter only faces very restricted bans on limited classes of individuals, many of whom were already under US sanctions scrutiny.
Amidst Trump's threats to end the Obama-era deal in which Iran promised to stop its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, as well as other saber rattling, these new restrictions may further sour that fragile relationship. These restrictions could also embitter regimes in Chad, Libya, and Somalia, which have been key allies in US anti-terror operations, as well as make situations tougher for the US in Syria and Yemen, where we are engaged in conflicts. (Restricting travel from Chad has especially confused regional experts, who note it is one of the more capable and stable states in the Sahel region; Chadian officials may see this as a major slight.)
This new ban may face major and sustained legal challenges in the US court system. But its issuance has complicated the potential for the Supreme Court to rule on previous versions next month. The new ban is also meticulously constructed. It will likely withstand legal challenges far better than its predecessors, and thanks to its inclusion of firm national security rationales, which courts are loathe to challenge, as well as two non-Muslim nations, assertions that it is a bigoted and unjustifiable policy move will be especially difficult to sustain in legal contexts moving forward.
For More: Why Trump's Third Attempt at a Travel Ban Just Might Stick
Presidential Proclamation 73: [Proclaiming] September 24, 2017, as Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1936, this proclamation expresses national gratitude and support for families with members in the armed services who died serving their nation. It assures those families, in boilerplate language, that their relatives did not die in vain, but did so to protect America and its values, remembers their dead, and commends them for so often stepping up to the challenging of helping new Gold Star families navigate their grief. It also calls on government officials and regular Americans to display the flag.
Who It Will Affect: This is a simple sentiment that would usually garner uncomplicated appreciation from Gold Star families across the nation and coincide with numerous memorial events. However, this year it draws attention back to Trump's long feud with a Gold Star family during his presidential campaign, which other Gold Star families characterized as disrespectful to their loss. Trump's equivocation of his own vague, alleged sacrifices with those of the Khan family, long-term attempt to use them, their son, and the episode to score political points, and failure to ever apologize for his approach led to concerns about the depth of his understanding of the grief felt by and level of his genuine sympathies for these families.
Executive Order 45: Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to North Korea What It Will Do: This action places some of the most dire and sweeping economic sanctions America has issued in recent years on North Korea. It's the Trump administration's latest response to Pyongyang's recent nuclear weapon and missile tests, as well as to ongoing concerns about the human rights abuses of the regime.
The order specifically freezes assets and confiscates property owned or held by individuals or entities connected to North Korea's major construction, energy, financial, fishing, IT, manufacturing, medical, mining, textile, and transit industries. It also targets merchants determined to own, control, or operate any North Korean land entry points, airports, or seaport, as well as those have engaged in significant imports or exports to or from North Korea. It allows the same sanctions on anyone who assists, supports, or provides goods or services to or in support of the above mentioned sanctionable individuals or entities, or to anyone or any entity owned, controlled by, or purported to act for, or somehow on, their behalf.
The order further bans aircraft and ships tied to foreign interests from landing at US airports or entering American seaports within 180 days of their departure from North Korea. It blocks funds from banks owned or controlled by North Korean people or entities—and from banks used to transfer funds North Korean people or entities have an interest in. It also authorizes sanctions against any individual or entity that knowingly conducted or facilitated major transactions with people or entities blocked by a previous sanctions measure, freezing their assets or confiscating their property, limiting their ability to open new accounts in the US, and imposing strict controls on any such accounts that already exist. Individuals or entities who attempt to help others evade or avoid these sanctions, or who conspire against them, are punishable, as well. And finally, the order bans the entry into the US for immigrant or nonimmigrant purposes of foreigners associated with North Korea's above-mentioned industries and shipping network.
The order notes that it does not necessarily apply to operations of the federal government or United Nations or their employees, grantees, or contractors. It also notes that exceptions can be made in the future (and of course the Treasury Department ultimately decides who to apply these sanctions to). However, the overall provisions of the order went into effect at the start of September 21.
Who It Will Affect: This order is meant to strike a death blow to the North Korean economy by going after its major industries but also by making good, in part, on Trump's promised threat to punish all who do business with the nation. It sends the message that America is willing to force nations and global institutions to make a choice between doing business with the tiny hermit kingdom or the massive US financial apparatus. This, it is hoped, will force North Korea to the negotiating table on its nuclear program, as similar though less intensive sanctions were believed to bring Iran to the table over its own nuclear program during the Obama administration. Coming days after Trump's apocalyptic rhetoric on a potential violent solution to his North Korean problem at the United Nations, it also somewhat reassuringly suggests the US is still willing to negotiate.
However it remains to be seen how these sanctions will be applied and how effective they will be. North Korea is not Iran; it has a long history of enduring sanctions. The US Representative to the United Nations has admitted these sanctions may not be enough to force the regime's hand on its nukes. Meanwhile, the North Korean administration is fuming, promising some form of retaliation, calling Trump "deranged," and threatening to test a massive hydrogen bomb in the Pacific. It is unclear if this is bluster or if these sanctions have exacerbated America's problems.
It is also unclear how this action will play with China, facilitator of most of North Korea's access to international finance. The nation has been implicated in bringing North Korean assets into America. While team Trump insists it is not targeting China, that nation will likely feel the brunt of the sanctions' provisions on entities working with or facilitating transactions for North Korea. For this reason, China has historically opposed such sanctions. China appears to be playing ball with the new sanctions thus far, but this could be them doing the bare minimum to avoid an incident while taking silent issue with America's actions. It remains to be seen how this will affect tricky Sino-American relations, both with respect to North Korea, which China would not like to see turn into a failed state with nuclear arms on its borders, and to trade, where the Trump administration has been rattling economic sabers at the nation, painted as a bogeyman to US industries.
Presidential Memorandum 66: Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Persons Who Commit, Threaten to Commit, or Support Terrorism
What It Will Do: In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, George W. Bush used an executive order to authorize sanctions against foreign individuals and entities determined to support, attempt, or commit terrorism. However the law under which those sanctions powers were justified requires they be re-upped every year. Every president since has accordingly reaffirmed the need for and thus reauthorized this sanctions power. This is Trump's first such reaffirmation and continuation of this by-now accepted policy.
Who It Will Affect: This just perpetuates a 16-year-old status quo.
Presidential Memorandum 65: A Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate [Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Persons Who Commit, Threaten to Commit, or Support Terrorism] What It Will Do: Law requires that, for Trump to continue the policy he does in the above memorandum, he must notify Congress that he intends to do so. This is that notification.
Presidential Proclamation 72: [Proclaiming] September 17 through September 23, 2017, as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation acknowledges this increasingly clear epidemic and reaffirms the government's commitment to tackling it. Trump's text notes that new figures indicate up to 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, with most of those deaths linked to opioid use, and that the number of opioid-dependent babies born in the US has increased by a factor of four over the past decade. Trump asserts that his administration is doing its best to act on existing laws that can be used to address this phenomenon. He also touts his March formation of a commission to study and recommend responses to the opioid epidemic, which will issue its findings this fall, leading to a government-wide policy.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone concerned with the American opioid epidemic will appreciate this recognition and spotlight. However, as pointed out in this tracker's coverage of Trump's August 31 proclamation that September is National Drug Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, this administration's feints to boost addiction treatment and address the opioid epidemic are easily undercut by his attempts to slash core substance abuse resources and funding throughout the government. He has also seemingly ignored the early recommendations of the commission he references here, notably declining to officially declare the opioid epidemic a national crisis despite referring to it as one in speeches.
For more: Read about Trumps response to the crisis.
Presidential Proclamation 71: [Proclaiming] September 17 through September 23, 2017, as National Farm Safety and Health Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation honors the labors of America's farmers, ranchers, and foresters, acknowledging that they keep the nation running while working in some of the most dangerous conditions possible in the US.
Who It Will Affect: Those in agriculture and forestry, as well as anyone concerned with worker safety, will appreciate this acknowledgment. Anyone concerned with these issues can pursue a number of education opportunities or access tools provided by organizations nationwide this week.
Presidential Proclamation 70: [Proclaiming] September 17 through September 23, 2017, as National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation recognizes the role historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have played in providing education and opportunity to marginalized communities. Trump's text recycles many of the platitudes from his February 28 executive order promising to support HBCUs. It also acknowledges the 150th anniversary of nine HBCUs. Trump reaffirms his stated support for these institutions—namely making sure they are self-sustaining. He notes that the White House will host its annual HBCU Summit this week, exploring the priorities laid out in that February executive order and how to achieve them.
Who It Will Affect: The Trump administration has made little progress on the promises outlined in that February executive order. Trump also signaled in May that he might refuse to maintain a 25-year-old federal program supporting HBCUs with loans for construction, saying it amounted to race-based policy and favoritism, before his administration walked that wildly off-the-mark reading of the program back. Trump also opted to skip this year's HBCU Summit, which was shortened. He has been delayed in naming a director to head the White House's Initiative on HBCUs. All of this has made HBCUs dubious about Trump's commitment to his platitudes and promises.
Presidential Proclamation 69: [Proclaiming] September 17, 2017, as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, and September 17, 2017, through September 23, 2017, as Constitution Week
What It Will Do: Annual presidential duties dating back to 1952 and 1956, respectively, these proclamations celebrate the constitution on the anniversary of its creation, as well as the achievements of the founding fathers and of America's citizens. Trump's text makes boilerplate notes about this being the 230th anniversary of the constitution, and about our constitution being the oldest such document in continuous usage today. His comments then take a distinctly MAGA turn. He tells citizens to beware of would-be ruling classes, which he implies strongly are members of the federal state and executive agencies that he controls, and claims that regulations are the result of opaque and unaccountable actors in the government. He thereby asserts that regulations are apparently unconstitutional. He also insinuates that the system of checks and balances are out of whack and promises to restore the government to its proper constitutional order for US citizens' benefit.
Who It Will Affect: Given how little many Americans seem to understand about the Constitution, anyone concerned with the quality of American democracy and governance should welcome calls for all of us to learn a little more about it. However any proclamations about the meaning of the Constitution coming from Trump will read as dubious to folks who do know the document well. Throughout his campaign, Trump was blasted for advancing a series of proposals that blatantly stood against and demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of the Constitution. He has faced similar criticisms throughout his presidency, especially for his attacks on the press and challenges to judicial independence. His insinuations that the entire modern executive branch and federal state are unconstitutional show a limited understanding of the basis for the current system of government.
Presidential Memorandum 64: For the Secretary of Defense [Regarding the Thirteenth Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation]
What It Will Do: This is a regular duty of the executive branch. It calls for a review of the systems by which service members are paid in order to make sure that the armed services are getting a fair shake and that service compensation can continue to attract new recruits. This text is all boilerplate, and makes no mention of ideas for reforms to the system, just saying that some may emerge from that review. All it does is name the secretary of defense the president's proxy who will conduct the review.
Who It Will Affect: As this is just a call for a regular survey, this action doesn't affect anyone for now. However Trump's basic language about the importance of giving service members fair compensation may rankle some observers, including some in the service, given his move in August to keep military pay increases below statutorily recommended levels to match private sector growth wage, a blow to compensation.
S.J.Res.49: A Joint Resolution Condemning the Violence and Domestic Terrorist Attack That Took Place during Events between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, Recognizing the First Responders Who Lost Their Lives While Monitoring the Events, Offering Deep Condolences to the Families and Friends of Those Individuals Who Were Killed and Deepest Sympathies and Support to Those Individuals Who Were Injured by the Violence, Expressing Support for the Charlottesville Community, Rejecting White Nationalists, White Supremacists, The Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and Other Hate Groups, and Urging the President and the President's Cabinet to Use All Available Resources to Address the Threats Posed by Those Groups
What It Will Do: This mouthful of a measure expresses the sentiments outlined in the title.
Who It Will Affect: This measure is a simple and straightforward expression of decency and logic on Congress's part that nearly every American will appreciate. It is also a major rebuke to Trump, who has waffled and floundered in his response to Charlottesville over the past month, equivocating between white supremacists and anti-fascist counter-protesters. This resolution forces Trump to put his signature on a much clearer and stronger statement than any he has made to date. However, it does not directly criticize or punish Trump, nor is it binding on any other aspect of his government. As such its effects are largely rhetorical; the resolution is ultimately a feel-good show of defiance, but toothless.
For More: Read our analysis of the resolution and its impact.
Presidential Memorandum 63: For the Secretary of State [Regarding a Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2018]
What It Will Do: Since the Reagan era, presidents have regularly labeled various countries as nations of concern for drug manufacturing or trafficking. This is Trump's first such list, although it is little changed from Obama's last list issued in 2016. It identifies 22 nations of concern (Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela), but notes that this designation does not mean a nation is not doing its utmost to reign in drug operations or work with the US.
Like Obama's last memoranda, Trump's text does note that Bolivia and Venezuela area not adhering to their obligations under international agreements or cooperating with the United States. But unlike Obama, Trump explicitly notes that he thought about adding Colombia to this list for the first time since the late 1990s. Trump notes that in recent years Colombia reduced its coca field destruction programs (in favor of working with the FARC group and other left-wing militias towards disarmament and long-term economic solutions in marginalized, coca-growing regions) leading to a massive rise in cocaine production—up about 200 percent since 2013. He claims he only held off on changing the nation's designation because it has shown signs of renewed anti-coca operations and robust US cooperation over the past year.
Who It Will Affect: This action is mostly a continuation of the status quo, save with respect to Colombia. For that nation, this was a serious and shocking rebuke. Colombia has made clear in recent months that it feels put upon by US expectations, given all the work it does to intercept cocaine, work with American forces, and tackle the underlying causes of production. It likely stings that America is ignoring the nation's legitimate need to end a long civil war and telling it to to go back to burning fields. The nation would clearly like to see America back off, as would the rest of the region, and take more responsibility for creating demand and not controlling its own internal drug markets.
Executive Order 44: Regarding the Proposed Acquisition of Lattice Semiconductor Corporation by China Venture Capital Fund Corporation Limited
What It Will Do: In November Canyon Bridge, a Chinese investment firm focused on acquiring superconductor companies, mainly in the US, initiated the purchase of Lattice for $1.3 billion. The Oregon company makes a type of chip whose functions can be changed via software and mainly services consumer needs after moving out of defense contracts, where its competitors, Altera and Xilinx, still thrive. However, it quickly emerged that Canyon Bridge was backed and at least partially funded by the Chinese government, raising concerns in the US that the acquisition of Lattice would lead to gains for China's aerospace program, or the erosion of America's intellectual property edge. Members of Congress and others in the government immediately condemned the deal.
This led the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), a panel of officials who review major deals that could have implications for national security, to initiate a review of the case. Earlier in September, the CFIUS decided the deal was not in America's best interests and passed its ruling to Trump, who has ultimate statutory authority to block mergers and acquisitions deemed detrimental to the US. In this action, Trump orders that both Canyon Bridge and Lattice cease actions on the deal, fully breaking it within 30 days (unless the CFIUS grants them an extension of up to 60 more days).
Who It Will Affect: Most immediately this affects Lattice, which had been shopping the deal with Canyon Bridge for a year before it was fully initiated in November. Given that almost three-quarters of the company's revenue is already in Asia, the acquisition made sense for them, and was a very lucrative offer. It claims that they had already spent $2.5 million on preparations for the shift in the first half of 2017. The company has immediately complied with Trump's decision, but lobbied hard to influence the CFIUS or Trump. Canyon Bridge and Lattice both argued this deal would have allowed them to hire more employees in the US and bolster a struggling American company, but to no apparent avail.
This decision has also further soured Sino-American relations. Trump has already issued several orders initiating investigations that could lead to protectionist actions against China under the guise of national security concerns, and tensions have been high as America tries to pressure China with possible economic coercion to help in reining in the rogue nuclear state of North Korea. This is only the fourth time in 27 years that a president has had to issue a ruling on a deal like this.
Presidential Proclamation 68: [Proclaiming] September 15 through October 15, 2017, as National Hispanic Heritage Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1988, this proclamation offers recognition and appreciation for the accomplishments of Hispanic individuals in America and the contributions they have made to the nation. In what has become a recurrent theme when he issues such routine proclamations, Trump's text focuses on the economic and military value these individuals bring. He applauds Hispanic-owed businesses for growing at 15 times the national average—perhaps not recognizing how this is in no small part a result of the very sorts of immigration he wishes to stamp out or make harder—and notes that 60 Medals of Honor have been awarded to Hispanic individuals. He also touts his tough stances on the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes as a sign of his administration's continuing dedication to Latin America.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who wishes to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture in the US can participate in any number of events marking this month nationwide. However this commemoration will also inspire a lot of doubt and ire toward Trump thanks to his notorious inflammatory statements on Mexicans and other Hispanic immigrants.
Presidential Proclamation 67: [Proclaiming] September 15, 2017, as National POW/MIA Recognition Day[Proclaiming] September 15, 2017, as National POW/MIA Recognition Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1998, this proclamation recognizes the sacrifices of returned prisoners of war and offers remembrance for armed forces members who have gone missing in action. It highlights continuing efforts to find remaining POWs or confirm the fate of MIA service members from recent American conflicts and the government's dedication to keep those efforts up until all service people are ideally accounted for. It also mandates that on the day in question the official MIA and POW flag, recognized and only flown on special occasion by law since 1990, be raised over many federal offices and war memorials.
Who It Will Affect: POWs and their families, as well as those connected to MIA individuals will likely appreciate this recognition and affirmation of continuing support and efforts. All individuals will be able to participate inrelated ceremonies nationwide as they please.
H.R.3732: Emergency Aid to American Survivors of Hurricanes Irma and Jose Overseas Act
What It Will Do: This bill amends the Social Security Act to allow a boost in funding this year and next for assistance for repatriating citizens from $1 million to $25 million.
Who It Will Affect: This will help Americans living in nations affected by recent hurricanes who wish to return to the US after these disasters, but who have limited resources.
S.Con.Res.23: A Concurrent Resolution Authorizing the Use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for a Ceremony to Present the Congressional Gold Medal to the Filipino Veterans of World War II
What It Will Do: During World War II, about 260,000 Filipinos responded to calls to volunteer to fight with America, which controlled the nation at the time. They served admirably and were vital to the American effort against Japan. But in 1946, around the same time the Philippines became independent, America passed a law denying them their promised benefits, and systematically denied them recognition for decades thereafter. Through groups like the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, veterans and their families, both Filipino and Filipino American, have long sought the restoration of those benefits. In 2009, Obama signed a law providing small one-time payouts as a form of minimal benefits. Then last fall, he signed a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the group. In the intervening year, groups involved with the struggle for recognition have been working to identify and verify the service of some 18,000 living veterans from this cohort, and to raise funds so that the National Mint can strike at least 500 bronze replicas of the medal to be awarded, with a framed copy of the law that awarded it, to some them and their next of kin.
This action grants permission for those surviving veterans, their families, and military and state officials from the US and the Philippines to use the Capitol Hill space mentioned in its title for a ceremony awarding those medals and officially recognizing the veterans' service on October 25. It notes that the Architect of the Capitol will specify any limits to what they can do in the space.
Who It Will Affect: This will be appreciated by all those who have worked to rectify a great national wrong as best they can, as well as by the veterans and their families being honored.
Presidential Memorandum 62: Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks
What It Will Do: Three days after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, President George W. Bush declared a national emergency and by so doing invoked the power to more readily deploy, control, and organize America's armed forces. By law, this declaration has to be extended every year, or else these powers will vanish. It has been extended annually by every president since. This is Trump continuing this policy.
Presidential Memorandum 61: A Message to the Congress of the United States [Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks]
What It Will Do: Under law, Trump has to notify Congress when he is extending an existing declared state of emergency, as he does in the above action. This is him doing so.
H.R.601: Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018, and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017
What It Will Do: This bill was initially the narrow Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act, which had already been passed through both chambers of Congress. However S.Con.Res.24 transformed it into a vehicle for the enactment of a deal, made earlier in the week, to provide aid for hurricane victims and keep the government running at existing funding levels and raise the debt ceiling through December 8, 2017, all in one fell swoop.
It still contains the provisions of the READ Act, meaning it enhances accountability and transparency in an attempt to improve the effectiveness of funds allocated to get children around the world into quality basic education under the provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Specifically, it requires the development, within a year of this law's enactment, of a comprehensive US strategy over the next five years on how to achieve the goal of promoting basic quality education in partner countries, with an emphasis on prioritizing delivery of education to areas where children are especially at risk of violence or radicalization.
It also allocates billions in funds to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Small Business Administration's Disaster Loans Program, and Housing and Urban Development's Community Planning and Development Fund. It contains a brief section extending the debt ceiling. And it outlines the continuation of existing funding for the federal government through the year, with a number of highly technical caveats and tweaks.
Who It Will Affect: This action provides vital relief to millions, and affects every American, if not everyone in the world, insomuch as it keeps the government open through the end of the year and prevents the nation from defaulting on its debts, triggering am international financial crisis that would likely dwarf the recent recession. However, it provides only a down payment on disaster relief. Further bills will be necessary in the future. And it only kicks the can on drawing up an actual budget and either eliminating the debt ceiling or enacting a long-term extension of it down the road just a couple of months, which tees up a huge Congressional showdown to come.
Additionally, the READ Act will hopefully help 263 million youths around the world who are out of school—especially the most vulnerable among them. It is an incredibly popular measure, promising to reduce government waste and give an increased sense of where funds are flowing. It also promises to make aid more thoughtful and effective for those of a more liberal bent. Education nonprofits have been largely supportive of it.
Presidential Memorandum 60: To the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate [Regarding Funding Designated as Emergency Requirements]
What It Will Do: This action is a necessary notification, under existing law, in order to designate certain funds outlined in H.R.601 for disaster relief purposes.
Who It Will Affect: This is just a formality for enacting disaster relief and continued government funding.
Presidential Memorandum 59: To the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate [Regarding Funding for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism Activities]
What It Will Do: This action is a necessary notification, under existing law, in order to designate certain funds outlined in H.R.601 for disaster relief purposes.
Who It Will Affect: This is just a formality for enacting disaster relief and continued government funding.
Presidential Memorandum 58: For the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury [Regarding a] Delegation of Authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act
What It Will Do: In December 2016, the Obama administration enacted the law mentioned in this action's title, which authorized the president to impose financial and visa sanctions on foreigners suspected of or proven to have perpetrated human rights violations or acts of corruption. (The law in question is not to be confused with the December 2012 Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act, commonly known as the Magnitsky Act.) This action passes off the president's authority to administer financial sanctions to the Secretary of the Treasury, and to administer visa sanctions to the Secretary of State.
Who It Will Affect: In theory, this isn't a major action—just another show of disengagement from the nuts and bolts of running the nation by the current president. However this move might be controversial. The now-notorious June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., a number of prominent campaign staff, and Russian lobbyists, ostensibly to gather dirt on Hillary Clinton for use in that year's elections, actually concerned Russian efforts to dismantle the 2012 Magnitsky Act's sanctions. This action does not concern that bill, but concerns similar sanctions powers. When filtered through this precedent, and ongoing accusations of coziness with Russia and acquiescence to its interests, Trump's decision to step away from direct involvement with sanctions powers intended for use against mostly Russian officials may raise eyebrows.
Presidential Memorandum 57: For the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury [Regarding the] Continuation of the Exercise of Certain Authorities under the Trading with the Enemy Act
What It Will Do: Under the provisions of the act mentioned in this action's title, sanctions issued by the president against nations the US is not at war with have natural sunsets. This action continues a long tradition of extending sanctions issued under this act for another year.
Presidential Proclamation 66: [Proclaiming] Friday, September 8, 2017, Through Sunday, September 10, 2017, As National Days of Prayer and Remembrance
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, this action commemorates the individuals killed in that tragedy. It also commemorates the service of first responders, about 400 of whom gave their lives rushing into the aftermath of the attacks. And it offers thanks to all those fighting terror on behalf of our nation to this day. Trump's text is all boilerplate and basic sentiments.
Presidential Proclamation 65: [Proclaiming] September 11, 2017, As Patriot Day
What It Will Do: Another annual presidential duty dating back to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, this action makes the same recognitions as expressed in the above proclamation. However it calls for remembrances on the anniversary of the attacks, not the days leading up to it, and explicitly requests Americans observe a moment of silence at 8:46 AM Eastern Time.
Who It Will Affect: See Presidential Proclamation 66, above.
S.Con.Res.24: A Concurrent Resolution Providing for a Correction in the Enrollment of H.R.601
What It Will Do: This resolution turns a bill that'd already passed through both chambers of Congress into a vehicle to rapidly realize and pass a deal struck earlier in the week to provide relief to hurricane victims and raise the debt ceiling and continue funding the government at current levels through December 8, 2017. It changes the title of that bill, and opens the addition of provisions relevant to these matters, on top of the bill's existing legislative language.
H.Con.Res. 69: Authorizing the Use of the Capitol Grounds for the District of Columbia Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run
What It Will Do: This resolution permits the group Special Olympics—District of Columbia to use the Capitol grounds for a 5K run on October 6, 2017. This is an annual tradition dating back to 1986, so the permission is routine. The Capitol Police are tasked with providing security, and they and the Architect of the Capitol are tasked with issuing any restrictions on how the space may be used during the event for safety and its integrity.
Who It Will Affect: This organization and the 1,600 area children, for whom it provides year-round sports training and competitions, will appreciate this routine permission.
Presidential Proclamation 64: [Proclaiming] September 3, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Harvey and for Our National Response and Recovery Efforts What It Will Do: A one-off rather than a recurrent presidential duty, like most proclamations, this action calls on Americans to pray for those affected by or responding to the damages caused by Hurricane Harvey. Trump's text begins with a brief account of Harvey's landfall on August 25, then justifies a day of prayer as an American governmental tradition dating back to the Revolutionary War, before finally offering platitudes to affected communities and responders.
Presidential Proclamation 63: [Proclaiming] September 2017 as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this order recognizes the challenges faced by the million of Americans suffering or recovering from substance addictions and their families face, and pledges that the federal government will stand behind them in their recovery efforts. Aside from the standard sentiments, Trump's text boasts about how much his administration has done for addiction and addicts, citing a $500 million pledged investment in prevention programs, work on expanding access to treatment and building recovery support networks, the creation of a Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and the allocation of $2.6 billion in his 2018 budget proposal for border security, which he insists would stem trafficking.
Who It Will Affect: Organizations, communities, and lawmakers nationwide will mark this month with rallies to raise awareness of addiction issues and campaigns to disseminate tools and resources for coping with the disorder and its effects. However, Trump's efforts to boost drug resources are like most of his initiatives: tiny signals of ostensible intent that gathering publicity that mask attempts to slash core substance abuse resources and funds throughout the government that would (if successful) more than outweigh any benefits he offers anti-addiction efforts. He has also ignored some of the early recommendations from the Commission he references, notably refusing thus far to declare the opioid crisis an actual national emergency, even as he calls it one in his speeches.
Presidential Memorandum 56: Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate [Concerning Pay Increases for Federal Civilian Employees in 2018]
What It Will Do: By law, federal employees are supposed to receive annual pay increases matching those in the private sector, as measured by a set formula. This year that increase was supposed to be 1.9 percent across the board, with additional increases for certain agencies or regions. However in this action, Trump uses his powers to, under the pretense that the nation still needs to find savings to recover from our economic downturn of recent years, reduce this to a 1.4 percent boost across the board and limit additional increases to a total of a 1.9 percent boost anywhere.
Who It Will Affect: This action clearly affects federal workers. The question is to what extent. In individual terms, this lower salary boost will not amount to many losses, but will save the government billions that can be directed towards other initiatives. It is also routine for presidents to lower additional locality-based boosts to salary increases, as the formula is widely considered to be outdated. However federal workers have seen their salary boosts slashed below statute for years, and frozen from 2011 to 2013 at Obama's directive, leading some worker groups and outside observers to worry about the cumulative effects on the livability or competitive attractiveness of government salaries. This action is not binding. Congress can still buck it in favor of a higher rate. But that seems unlikely given current budget dynamics.
Presidential Memorandum 55: Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House or Representatives and the President of the Senate [Concerning Pay Increases for the Armed Services in 2018]
What It Will Do: By law, members of the armed services are supposed to receive annual pay increases matching those in the private sector, as measured by a set formula. This year that increase was supposed to be 2.4 percent. But in this action Trump uses his powers to reduce this to a 2.1 percent salary boost. He explicitly states that according to his administration's findings, this will not affect military recruitment efforts.
Who It Will Affect: This action clearly affects members of the armed services. The question is, to what extent. Estimates of the losses members of the armed services face do not seem major—a few dozen dollars a month at most—especially when compared to the cumulative hundreds of millions the government will save, which can be allocated to other military priorities. This action is not a Trumpian budget-slashing move. For years, Obama also held salary increases below federally mandated levels. (This is actually only the second time since 2010 that pay has increased by over 2 percent in a given year.) As such, members of the military and lawmakers worry that this action will pile onto a cumulative effect, limiting the appeal of military service and damaging the solvency of service members and their families. This move also seems to run afoul of Trump's promises to bolster the armed services, and to be at odds with the general increase in military spending proposed in his 2018 budget. Either way, this action is not binding.
Presidential Proclamation 62: [Proclaiming] September 2017 as National Preparedness Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 2004, this action calls attention to the importance of preparing ourselves, our homes, and our families for unexpected manmade or natural disasters. Trump's text marks the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the ten-year anniversary of a tornado that leveled 95 percent of Greensburg, Kansas, and 25-year anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, the worst in Florida's recorded history, as proof of the importance of preparing for disasters. He also throws in a note recognizing how timely this proclamation, scheduled to coincide with prime Atlantic hurricane season, is in light of the recent battering the Gulf Coast took in the torrential flooding of Hurricane Harvey.
Who It Will Affect: Like previous presidents' proclamations, Trump's text calls on Americans to take concrete steps to prepare for future disasters, including developing and practicing disaster response plans, creating emergency supply kits, and signing up for emergency alerts. Government, community, and other bodies will also organize events and share resources over the month to help people learn more about what they can do. This is a useful reminder, and the information and tools it circulates is a definitive good.
Executive Order 43: Restoring State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement's Access to Life-Saving Equipment and Resources
What It Will Do: In 1990, Congress approved a program to transfer surplus materials from the Department of Defense to law enforcement agencies nationwide, primarily for use in anti-drug trafficking operations. In 1997, the program was opened up more broadly, although with priority still given to anti-drug and anti-terror operation requests. This transfer program, which has amounted to more than $6 billion worth of materials since it was first put in place, has largely involved innocuous materials, like light bulbs or fax machines.
However, highly publicized images of police mobilizing military-style weapons and vehicles to control the protests that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, at the hands of local police in 2014, sparked newfound scrutiny of the program. Subsequent reports revealed that police departments across the nation were using the program to acquire what seemed like an absurd array of military weaponry that was clearly not always being deployed for limited SWAT missions—and that might even be overkill in those settings.
After the Department of Justice concluded in a report that the military tactics employed in Ferguson had stoked tensions between police and protestors and created fear rather than managing the situation, the Obama administration issued an executive order restricting the program on January 16, 2015. Under this policy, certain items, like armored vehicles, bayonets, and grenade launchers, were prohibited from future transfer and recalled from the field. Others, like armored vehicles, drones, and military-grade explosives, were labeled as controlled, requiring proof of need before they could be acquired.
This action revokes that executive order, instantly making it as easy as it had been previously for law enforcement agencies nationwide to acquire those sorts of prohibited or controlled items.
Who It Will Affect: This is Trump making good on another of his "law and order" campaign promises, much to the delight of a number of police organizations nationwide. These groups have argued that the Obama administration put optics ahead of their ability to respond to serious situations, pointing out that they repurposed most heavy-duty equipment for civilian usage. (Think: rocket launchers used to propel tear gas and beanbags.) These groups have pointed out that military surplus gear has helped police handle active mass shooter situations. The Trump administration echoed this logic, claiming they were bringing life-saving gear back to cops, and sending a clear message that crime would not be normalized or tolerated in America. The Department of Justice also publicized two studies alongside the order in which economists claimed that military equipment was effective at reducing crime and assaults on officers.
Civil rights groups, however, argue this will not only put more (and unnecessary) firepower into the hands of police, who have come under increasing criticism for brutality in recent years, but will send a detrimental message to communities they operate in, especially where tensions are high. Military gear sends a message, they claim, that the police are using offensive force against citizens rather than maintaining peace and order. Libertarian-ish figures like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky have come out against this order as well, claiming that it is an overreach of state power. And everyone has good reason to worry about the re-liberalization of this program, given how many law enforcement agencies have been punished in the recent past for misplacing their materials and how easy it was for the Government Accountability Office, as it recounted in a July 2017 report, to fraudulently procure materials from this program by pretending to be a fake police department.
Presidential Memorandum 54: For the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security [Regarding] Military Service by Transgender Individuals
What It Will Do: Last June, the Obama administration issued policy that would have opened recruitment of and service by openly transgender individuals in the United States military by July 1, 2017—provided those individuals have been stable in their gender identities for at least 18 months. The policy would also require the military to cover their gender confirmation therapies and surgeries like other service members' health needs. The current secretary of Defense, James Mattis, delayed the implementation of this policy to 2018, claiming it required further study before implementation. But in the meantime an unofficial policy had come into place that allowed trans individuals already in the military to serve openly.
This memorandum follows up on some Trump tweets indicating he wanted trans people out of the military altogether. In loaded language, it accuses the Obama administration of enacting the policy without fully considering its impact on military unit cohesion, readiness, or financial resources. (The Obama administration actually did study these issues, as have other organizations like RAND; all have concluded there would be negligible effects, if any.) As such, it frames the action as a return to a more logical and stable status quo until such time as the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security can present Trump with an argument that he believes to be convincing that the Obama-era policy should be reinstated.
Who It Will Affect: In a twisted way, this action at least provides some level of resolution after a month of absolute uncertainty to the up to 15,000 trans individuals currently serving in the military, openly or otherwise. Granted, it does not yet resolve the fate of currently openly transgendered service people—although Mattis supposedly intends to allow their continued open service, barring serious medical issues that might prevent their deployment.
The actualization of this policy will further stoke the extreme backlash Trump has faced over this rash decision from all sides. Even Republicans view his actions here as overkill and have protested that any individual able to serve their nation should be granted that right and ability. LGBT and general civil rights groups have noted that this move reinstates the last service prohibition in place after the repeal of the military's homophobic "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 2010, and is an extreme reversal of civil rights for petty reasons. The move has also likely put new strain on Trump's relationship with his military, whose leaders were reportedly blindsided by the decision, despite Trump's claims he consulted with his generals before making it. Some members of the military have been openly hostile to the idea of reinstituting this service ban. Last but not least, the action also (despite protestations to the contrary from the White House) puts a final nail in the coffin of Trump's campaign claims to be a unique Republican protector of LGBTQ rights.
Executive Order 42: I mposing Sanctions with Respect to the Situation in Venezuela
What It Will Do: On March 8, 2015, the Obama administration put sanctions on Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro and key members of his administration as punishment for their moves to consolidate power and their crackdowns on anti-regime protest movements. The sanctions in that executive order have been expanded multiple times, including three times so far this year, to cover more individuals. But the framework for punishments they lay out has been static.
This action expands new types of sanctions not just against Maduro and his allies, but against the Venezuelan government in response to escalations in his clique's concentration of power and abuses against anti-regime protestors in recent weeks. The specific list of sanctions gets a little wonky, but essentially it limits the nation's ability to finance its own operations or those of Petroleos de Venezeual, S.A., the state oil company that accounts for 95 percent of the nation's vital export income, just as the Maduro administration is reportedly running out of cash on which to operate, by restricting transactions by US individuals, institutions, or using US currency involving them.
America imports 700,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil a day and Citgo, Venezuela's refinery in the US, employs thousands. Extremely short-term financing in many respects is also allowed to continue unabated. The Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the State Department, is authorized to develop further rules or regulations related to these sanctions moving forward as they see fit.
Who It Will Affect: Venezuela wonks think that in the short term, these sanctions could actually bolster Maduro's regime while doing little to its solvency. (It is already exceptionally hard for the economically failing nation to finance itself.) Especially after Trump rashly threatened potential military intervention against the dictator on August 11, Maduro can spin these sanctions as proof of economic warfare being waged against his rightful regime by the US, which he believes is in cahoots with and bolster illegitimate protestors and opposition groups. Maduro announced on the day of these sanctions that he would ramp up persecution against those in his nation's opposition groups he believed worked on these sanctions with Trump and company. But in the long term these sanctions could hurt the regime's solvency, especially if they are slowly ratcheted up as many financial observers expect they will be under Trump.
Some may be concerned new sanctions will have a negative effect on the Venezuelan people, who are undergoing an economic crisis with no end in sight. The Trump administration claims the sanctions were calibrated not to hurt either US or Venezuelan consumers by sparing oil exports and focusing on regime financing. However it's unclear if the effects will be so contained—especially if Maduro, who has hinted that he may take his oil elsewhere in response, decides to shutter Citgo, or if the company closes down of its own accord as he claims it will.
Presidential Memorandum 53: A Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate [Regarding the Imposition of Sanctions with Respect to the Situation in Venezuela]
What It Will Do: American legal statute requires that when a president issues new sanctions under his unilateral powers, like those in Executive Order 42 against Venezuela, he must officially notify Congress that he has done so. This memorandum is that notification.
Presidential Proclamation 61: [Proclaiming] August 26, 2017, As Women's Equality Day
What It Will Do: This is an annual presidential duty, dating back to 1976, recognizing the anniversary of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. It also celebrates the contributions women make to their communities, families, and nation. Trump's text contains the standard historical references and platitudes, but also touts his own administration as a paragon of women's rights and empowerment. His focus, he states, is clearly on promoting the equal participation of women in the workforce—a goal tied to his larger jobs-building image.
Who It Will Affect: For most of the nation, this day will be an innocuous recognition of history and of women's modern contributions to the nation, marked by lawmakers and other community groups with any number of Tweets or events and so on.
H.R.2288: Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017
What It Will Do: At the start of 2017, 470,000 veterans were waiting for decisions on appeals about their benefits. That number had risen by 90,000 over the past two years, despite an influx of $200 million to solve the backlog of appeals cases provided by Congress from 2013 to 2016. Although these benefits are often essential to veterans or their families, the appeals process currently takes up to three to six years in many cases, and has taken 25 years for at least one man.
This bill attempts to solve that crisis by reforming the appeals system rather than just throwing money at it. It makes a number of tiny tweaks to process, like altering burden of proof standards, but it also authorizes the development of a system with more and more efficient appeals tracks, to be tested as soon as possible on an opt-in basis; reports shall also be issued on its efficacy.
Who It Will Affect: Ideally, this bill will halt the rise in pending claims appeal wait cases and times, if not reverse them, allowing veterans to obtain their benefits in a timely manner. The general push has the support of Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, who called for a congressional fix in February, and from a number of veterans' service organizations—although some of those groups urge caution in the implementation and fine-grained details of the new tracks, lest they create
H.R.339: Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act
What It Will Do: When the Northern Mariana Islands became a commonwealth in free and willful association with the United States in 1978, it maintained its own independent immigration system and policies. However the commonwealth used this freedom to create a system drawing in high numbers of guest workers and providing them with poor labor and human rights protections. Outrage to this led to the federalization of the commonwealth's immigration system as part of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which imposed restrictions on guest workers, including caps on how many could come in within any year, with the aim of making the islands more reliant on their domestic workforce. This year, the commonwealth was set to run out of its immigration cap before the end of the year, which locals believed would create a labor shortage threatening vital functions and the regional economy. (The islands have reportedly been in a bit of a construction boom and ate up permits for workers to fill roles in that flurry of labor.) This bill attempts to resolve that issue by providing a few extra permits, provided that at least a certain number of them go towards healthcare workers and plant systems operators, nor construction.
Who It Will Affect: Ideally, this will keep the economy of and life in the commonwealth on a solid footing, and even an upward trend, for a few years more as it works its way towards self-sufficiency and weans itself off of a long history of reliance on outsider labor.
H.J.Res.76: Granting the Consent and Approval of Congress for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia to Enter into a Compact Relating to the Establishment of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission
What It Will Do: Following a smoke incident at a station in 2015, officials in the two states and district mentioned in the title decided that safety oversight duties for the Washington Metrorail system, which services parts of all of these entities, should be shifted from existing authorities to a legally and fiscally independent Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. (The idea has been floating around for years, but got a kick in the ass after that incident.) Exactly such a commission is actually now required under federal law. But given the peculiar nature of the District of Columbia, Congress had to approve the three entities' plans to cooperate together to develop this new body. This resolution provides that approval—and includes the detailed plans already drawn up by those entities for what this new body, to be run by a board of representatives from the states and DC, will look like and how it will operate.
Who It Will Affect: Ideally, this will lead to the creation of a new safety monitoring body that will lift a federal penalization on the Washington Metro area's transit projects, benefitting the region in innumerable ways. Since everyone involved seems eager to move forward with this project, and it is required by law, it's hard to see anything but straightforward upsides all around.
Presidential Proclamation 60: [Proclaiming] August 20 through August 26, 2017, as National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this proclamation expresses gratitude for the support and understanding employers and communities show to America's 1 million National Guard and Reserve forces, accommodating them despite costs when they have to leave for trainings or deployments. Trump's text contains mere boilerplate platitudes on this, expressing appreciation and calling on Americans, officials, and groups to mark the week as they see fit.
Who It Will Affect: Members of the Guard and Reserve and their employers will appreciate this (basic) recognition for their efforts to maintain a sometimes inconvenient volunteer military.
H.R.374: To Remove the Sunset Provision of Section 203 of Public Law 105-374, and for Other Purposes
What It Will Do: This bill concerns a law that allows California, Oregon, and Washington to develop their own laws and regulations for the management of Dungeness crab fishing grounds, for which there are no federal management plans. That allowance originally had a sunset date. This law removes that clause, making this allowance for local management permanent.
Who It Will Affect: Dungeness crab fishers and processors and those who regulate them.
H.R.2430: FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill continues the Food and Drug Administration's various user fee programs, which were set to expire on September 30 and through which they collect payments from drug and medical device makers to fund and speed up their review and approval process, for another five years. Over that period, the programs are expected to collect between $8 and $9 billion, a quarter of the FDA's funding. Along with minor fee regime adjustments, the bill contains numerous little tweaks intended to improve the review process and safety monitoring, including bringing in more patient input and conducting more real-world product usage and results data. The bill provides for more scientific expertise within the FDA, seeks to encourage harmonization between US and international medicine and medical products standards, and will finally facilitate the funding of the 21st Century Care Act of 2016, which sought to accelerate medical product development and innovation to bring novel drugs to market faster yet safely.
Who It Will Affect: This bill has attracted the usual suspicion that, thanks to coziness between the FDA and the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, it will lower consumer safety standards. But it passed after two years of negotiations with widespread bipartisan support and the approval of the pharmaceutical industry, and may well help to speed up a notoriously slow and costly approval process. So long as consumer safety remains intact—or at least does not deteriorate in any perceptible way—that is likely mostly a positive development.
H.R.510: Rapid DNA Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill authorizes and encourages the use of modern rapid DNA testing tools to help clear backlogs of DNA evidence in law enforcement facilities across the nation. These tools take 90 minutes or so to find a match, while prevalent traditional techniques can take weeks. The bill asks the FBI to create standards and procedures for these tools' trustworthiness and utilization, and says that law enforcement should only use either private labs accredited by a nonprofit association of forensics experts, or criminal justice agency labs that also comply with these standards.
Who It Will Affect: Hopefully, this act will make it easier to gather DNA evidence and thus to move cases through the courts swiftly and with greater justice. It's a commonsense move with broad bipartisan support and the endorsement of many top law enforcement officials.
H.R.873: Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act
What It Will Do: In 2015, a group of veterans and citizens banded together to advocate for the creation of a national monument somewhere in Washington, DC, to commemorate those who have served, died, been wounded, or gone missing in global war on terror. However, under the provisions of the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, national monuments in DC to a US conflict can only be developed ten years after those conflicts have concluded. Recognizing that the amorphous war on terror has no end in sight, this bill provides a special dispensation to begin work on this monument before the conflict has finished. It specifically recognizes the group founded in 2015 as the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation and authorizes it to raise funds to plan and build a National Global War on Terrorism Memorial in DC, stipulating that no federal funds may be used in the process and that any excess funds raised must go to the Department of the Interior.
Who It Will Affect: This bill has received widespread support. It's hard to argue, no matter what one thinks of the war on terror, that there should be a place to honor those 7,000 or so Americans who have died thus far in the conflict, 1 million who have been wounded, and three million who have served. This memorial will eventually become a site for recognition, healing, and connection, and ideally education about these conflicts—their meaning and their place in global and American history. The foundation authorized by this act now faces the daunting task of figuring out how to develop a monument that can recognize the service of peoples in varied branches of the military across dozens of nations involved in the war on terror, and how to do so in a way that can accommodate future developments in this endless conflict.
Presidential Memorandum 52: Elevation of US Cyber Command to a Unified Combat Command
What It Will Do: In 2010, the Obama administration merged two military task forces, on cyber offensive and Pentagon cyber defensive operations, into a "sub-unified combatant unit," a dedicated military force. Known as Cyber Command, or CYBERCOM, the unit has to date been under the aegis of Strategic Command, one of nine "unified combatant commands" tasked with organizing and controlling military operations related to particular regions of the world or areas of expertis. Strategic Command also controls America's military space, missile defense, and nuclear capabilities. Cyber Command also operated from within, logistically supported, and was ultimately controlled by the head of the intelligence gathering National Security Agency.
This action elevates Cyber Command to become America's tenth unified combatant command, freeing it from and putting it on par with Strategic Command. Cyber Command will take on all the relevant command duties of such a unit, as well as concentrate American cybersecurity and offensive duties into itself; its full duties will be reflected in the next update to the Unified Command Plan. The action further instructs the Secretary of Defense to nominate an officer to lead the organization, who the president will then nominate for Senate approval. The elevation will not be entirely complete until this new official has been identified and put in place. The action finally instructs the Secretary of Defense and Direction of the National Intelligence Agency to evaluate whether Cyber Command should still to be part of, or split from, the NSA.
Who It Will Affect: This elevation has been under consideration almost since Cyber Command came into being. It is meant to give the unit more space and streamlined opportunity to develop its cyber offensive capabilities, to aid in disrupting digital campaigns by groups like ISIS or physical operations like North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, as well as to strengthen its abilities to detect and shut down cybersecurity threats. The only reason this move did not come sooner is that, until 2015, Cyber Command was focused on building up its capacity. Its 133 teams only reached basic capacity last fall, when they hit 5,000 employees—and the unit is not expected to be at full capacity until late 2018, when it is able to keep 6,500 individuals on staff. However despite mixed results from its first offensive campaigns against ISIS over the past two years, consensus is that the Command is ready to stand on its own, and the decision to cut it free from Strategic Command at this point has met with widespread support.
Opening the door to separation from the NSA could benefit the unit and America's overall cyber capabilities as well. The NSA's focus is on monitoring and collecting information on cyber campaigns against the US, while Cyber Command is meant to defend against and shut them down, missions that can run at odds with each other and that some believe should be pursued separately, simultaneously, and at equal strength. However doubts remain as to whether Cyber Command can operate without the NSAs support, or whether the two bodies can coordinate sufficiently if they are not joined together. This action's instructions to evaluate that situation will hopefully resolve these questions and further define American cybersecurity in the future.
H.R.2210: To Designate The Community Living Center of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Butler Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, As The "Sergeant Joseph George Kusick VA Community Living Center"
What It Will Do: This bill does exactly and exclusively what it says in the title.
Who It Will Affect: Butler County history buffs and those who knew Kusick will appreciate this gesture. A local of the regional town of Bruin, Kusick died when he heroically stayed behind during an evacuation after an ambush in Vietnam in 1967, despite being injured, in order to man a radio link to help complete the retreat. The final helicopter on which he finally fled was then shot down; he was decorated for his service, becoming a local hero posthumously.
H.R.3218: Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill provides for the largest expansion of the GI Bill, the post-WWII program providing education (and other) assistance to veterans, since 2008's Post-9/11 GI Bill. This bill is informally known as the Forever GI Bill, as it ends the old 15-year time limit on veterans using their education benefits with the goal of encouraging later-in-life education to improve veterans' lifelong workforce viability.
The bill also extends education benefits to Purple Heart recipients, regardless of how much time they served (they previously needed to have served at least three years to receive benefits) and military reservists and national guards deployed on active duty. It provides a slight increase in benefits to veterans with less than a year of active service under their belts. It expands eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program stabled by the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. It increases education benefits to surviving family members or killed military personnel or to the dependents of disabled veterans eligible for them. It restores benefits to veterans who attend or attended schools that closed mid-term from 2015 on—like Corinthian Colleges and ITT—for the semester of education they were unable tom complete. It allocates more funding (up to $100 million a year), via a special one-year extension scholarship, for degrees related to science, technology, engineering, and math—fields for which only about 14 percent of recent vets have used their benefits. And it makes it easier to use benefits for distance courses in technical fields.
The bill provides more resources for claims processing (especially tech-based solutions to make it easier and more efficient) and for Department of Veterans Affairs training for college staffers who file the paperwork to confirm students are enrolled. It pays for all of these programs and expansions by slightly reducing monthly housing alliances for new GI Bill benefits enrollees.
Who It Will Affect: As with most veterans' rights legislation, this was a bipartisan and broadly supported bill, pushed for years by veteran's service organizations and higher education institutions. It promises to bring more veterans into education throughout their lives, ideally helping with reintegration into society and their lifelong workforce competitiveness, as well as with the quality of the skilled American workforce overall. The bill was briefly stalled over disagreements about how its benefits, the largest expansion of veterans' education payments in a decade, should be paid for. But there seems to be widespread support for the final bill.
Executive Order 41: Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review Permitting Process for Infrastructure
What It Will Do: This order is basically the more concrete sequel to Trump's second executive order, issued on January 24, which told everyone in charge of environmental reviews and permits for major infrastructure projects to speed things up.
Here, Trump explicitly calls (in incredibly complex and circuitous language) for all environmental reviews and permitting for major infrastructure projects to be completed within at most two years. Individual permits are to be issued within 90 days, provided there is sufficient information to make a decision, though 90-day extensions will be granted in some cases. Trump aims to facilitate this by putting a point person from one primary agency in charge of overseeing each project, navigating and coordinating permitting across other agencies on behalf of the sponsors of the project, which he calls the "One Federal Decision" approach.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Committee (FPISC), the latter a body created under Obama in 2015 but which Trump has seemingly tried to take credit for in recent months, are ordered to create a plan for cross-agency permit process coordination and predictability. Federal agencies with potential environmental review or permitting duties are instructed to adjust their plans to be consistent with the OMB-FPISC report. Agencies will also be responsible for tracking progress on every project they and updating permitting and review timelines for them all at least once per quarter. In the future, the OMB and FPISC will issue guidelines for new accountability systems holding agencies to new coordination standards
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in addition to being instructed to generally help the OMB and FPISC implement these policies, is tasked with developing a list of actions to modernize environmental reviews—read: speed them up—within 30 days of this action. It is also tasked with mediating disputes between agencies in navigating this action's provisions.
The Departments of Agriculture and of the Interior are instructed to be the lead agencies in plans to identify, design, and facilitate new energy project development corridors, which will receive expedited environmental reviews. Interior is further tasked with providing the OMB with strategies and ideas for what that can be done to reorganize federal agencies and multi-agency approaches to better achieve this order's goals, and to harmonize these recommendations with those related to Trump's broad March 13 executive order on reorganizing the executive branch.
The order additionally says that the FPISC will now receive personnel, budget, and procurement support from the General Services Administration, unless the OMB decides otherwise.
And as almost an afterthought, this order revokes Obama's 2015, executive order that established new standards for building projects receiving federal funds in flood-prone areas. These Obama standards take climate change and attendant rising sea levels into consideration in order to reduce the cost of repair and rebuilding after crises in the future. No reason is given for this revocation in the text.
Who It Will Affect: Business groups, broadly, love this order as they have long complained about duplicative review and permitting processes—facts Trump brought up as proof of regulatory chaos and overstep at a (disastrous) press conference on the order the day it was signed. Trump maintains that reducing these regulatory barriers will make infrastructure spending more attractive to private actors, as well as speeding up the development of projects that can help American commerce, creating trickle-down economic benefits to American families.
However, environmental groups worry new timelines will encourage cutting corners in environmental reviews and other forms of oversight and limit the time for communities to raise concerns about projects being built near them. Some experts also wonder if this overhaul will actually be able to accelerate projects, as they argue state and local approval processes that Trump cannot change lead to a lot of the delays. And while the Department of Transportation argues that this deregulation will help to attract private infrastructure funding, a draft report out this year from the Department of the Treasury said that a lack of public funding is the most significant barrier to the development of new transit and water infrastructure projects. Democrats have also questioned the merits of this overhaul when streamlining processes had already been enacted into law in 2012 and 2015, but had not yet been fully implemented as of this year.
Although key business groups approve of Trump's revocation of Obama's flood planning order, as it will speed up their projects and keep their costs down, this unexpected move has drawn criticism from environmental groups and conservation organizations. This year, scientists from 13 federal agencies reported that they expected sea levels to rise an average of a foot by 2050, with more severe impacts in certain areas. That could result in a lot of damage to infrastructure, and thus a lot more spending on repairs.
This action seems to reflect Trump's disbelief in climate change, focus on appeasing business interests, and dedication to unraveling the Obama legacy as an end in and of itself.
Presidential Memorandum 51: Notice Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Export Control Regulations
What It Will Do: In 1979, Congress passed the Export Administration Act, the latest in a series of laws giving the president control over certain export levels and protocols in the service of national security, foreign policy management, and the promotion of American economic interests. These powers are fairly standard by now, having only been slightly tweaked from previous statutory regimens dating back to 1917. But the EAA of 1979 had an expiration date. From 1984 to 1985, Ronald Reagan had to use the 1977 International Emergency Powers Act to keep the EAA in force for a year, claiming that stripping the presidency of these explicit powers would put the nation at risk, as Congress had not re-approved this regimen or passed a replacement law. The EAA was reauthorized the next year, but eventually lapsed again. Since 2001, a continuous chain of presidents has used the IEPA to re-up the continuation of this export control regime without congressional approval by executive fiat. This is Trump's first of many re-ups, preserving the EAA for another year before it could fall out of force on August 17.
Who It Will Affect: Practically no one, as this just maintains a 38-year-old status quo.
Presidential Memorandum 50: For the United States Trade Representative [Regarding A Potential Investigation of China and American Technology and Intellectual Property Integrity]
What It Will Do: This action asks the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to determine whether or not he should launch a probe into Chinese laws or practices that may be siphoning off or otherwise undermining American businesses' intellectual property and other trade secrets.
Who It Will Affect: There's a longstanding and well -supported narrative in the US business world about how the Chinese government uses its control over markets, as well as espionage, to compel foreign companies into handing over trade secrets, or just stealing them. This concern is especially acute for American automotive, energy, and telecom firms, who have to partner with Chinese firms to enter Chinese markets, and in the process fork over the details of their tech and methods. Silicon Valley companies are also required of late to host data centers dealing with Chinese operations in China and allow the state access to them.
The independent Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property released a report this claiming that China is the top offender against American IP, costing America's economy up to $600 billion per year; the US Department of Commerce estimated that in 2014 our IP leadership accounted for up to 40 percent of the national economy—so this is a dire issue. But for fear of retaliation and out of desire to play in the Chinese market, most American businesses have publicly kept silent on this, taken few practical countermeasures, and gone along with it.
Naturally, this action has drawn widespread praise. However, the document was clearly watered down—it was expected that Trump would order the report rather than ask the USTR to determine whether a report should be done—and was reportedly delayed by a week. Although administration representatives say otherwise, Trump has clearly hinted this is due to America's continued nuclear standoff with North Korea and the need to court Chinese support to pressure the pariah state. Notably, Trump's previous two memoranda probing Chinese trade practices have not yet led to actions against the superpower either.
It may also be too late to do anything meaningful on this particular issue. Chinese IP theft was at its peak in the 1990s and early 2000s. But by now China is a tech powerhouse in its own right. Its citizens file twice as many patent applications as Americans, it spends as much on research and development as the US, and over the past couple of years it has ramped up IP protection to the point that it's becoming a leader in the field.
S.114: To Authorize Appropriations and to Appropriate Amounts for the Veterans Choice Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to Improve Hiring Authorities of the Department, to Authorize Major Medical Facility Leases, and for Other Purposes
What It Will Do: In 2014 the Department of Veterans Affairs instituted the Veterans Choice Program, allowing vets who live more than 40 miles from a VA healthcare facility, whose facilities lack specialists, or who have waited more than 30 days for treatment to be matched with private care providers for select services. This was a stopgap intended to buy the VA time to address chronic problems with long wait times. An earlier bill, S.544, extended this program from its August 7 sunset date until whenever cash ran out. But Veterans Choice was set to run out of cash soon—well before the VA had fixed its internal issues—because participation in the program has been expanding faster than anyone had predicted. This bill authorizes and appropriates $2.1 billion dollars to keep the program running a little while longer.
This bill also contains a host of provisions intended to help solve the VA's chronic understaffing; there are currently 49,000 vacancies at the agency, many of them in medical services. It emphasizes training programs, the promotion of technical experts, and new, hopefully more efficient ways of filling empty positions. It requires the agency's secretary to, within 120 days, develop and implement a plan to hire qualified directors for long-vacant medical positions in the agency, and to update Congress regularly. Hiring and workforce improvement provisions are bolstered by $1.4 billion in dedicated funding.
Finally, the bill provides $274 million for the VA to lease out 28 major medical facilities in 2018. All of the spending in the bill is to be paid for by trimming Medicaid pensions and collecting on agency housing loans, rather than cutting VA benefits as some had advocated.
Who It Will Affect: This bill ensures that numerous veterans can continue to receive quality and timely healthcare—at least into the next year. It also contains provisions likely to improve the staffing and overall organizational and managerial situation at the VA, which may begin to address some chronic problems with agency operations and services provisioning. These are uncontroversial steps. Veterans groups and some Democrats worry that extending the Choice program may point towards an impulse to privatize the VA's services, but commitments in this bill to staffing up the VA without cutting benefits or overhauling its services so Choice can wind down allays those fears.
H.R.3298: Wounded Officers Recovery Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill allows the Capitol Police Board, which administers the body that protects Congress and its guests and visitors, to make payments from the US Capitol Police Memorial Fund to employees who have suffered serious injuries in the line of duty. The fund was originally created in 1998 to support the families of Capitol Police cops who were killed in a shooting. It also explicitly allows the board to pay out money donated in the wake of the June 14 shooting on a congressional baseball practice session. That shooting left two Capitol Police injured: David Bailey and Crystal Griner. The board is to establish its own rules for payout sums and eligibility regulations.
Who It Will Affect: This mostly affects Bailey and Griner, but will be of invaluable benefit to any future Capitol Police who find themselves injured in the line of duty in the future.
H.R.3364: Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
What It Will Do: This is the big sanctions bill. It's drawn significant attention for provisions imposing limits on Trump and future presidents' abilities to de-escalate or lift sanctions against nations or individuals. This limitation was reportedly proximately motivated by reports that Trump was planning to return two Russian diplomatic compounds implicated in intelligence gathering and seized by the Obama administration in December as a punishment for Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. But more broadly, the bill is a bipartisan show of no confidence in Trump's competence or good faith when it comes to negotiating with other nations via sanctions. The limitations require Trump to provide Congress 30 days' notice (60 days near the August recess) of any intention to lift or relax sanctions. Congress already has the power to to effectively veto such actions, but this move makes sure there is time for Congress to review and vote on them, effectively limiting Trump's ability to act quietly or quickly in this realm.
The bill also imposes new sanctions against Russia. It specifically enshrines in law sanctions imposed under Obama via executive orders and administrative actions. It also expands the list of individuals covered by these sanctions, imposes sanctions against the Russian intelligence and weapons sector to make exporting arms (especially to Syria) harder, opens the door to further sanctions against anyone participating in deals with the vital Russian energy sector, and limits US investment in Russian privatization deals. Additionally, it commissions reports on the status of oligarchs, effects of further sanctions expansions, and state of illicit finance in Russia and throws Congressional support into projects countering Russian influence in Eurasia.
This bill also slaps restrictions on American business with groups involved in work on the Iranian ballistics program and their business partners, steps up arms embargoes on Iran, and requires the imposition of terrorist activities–linked sanctions against Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps unit. Additionally, it opens the door to further sanctions against identified human rights abusers in the nation and calls for reports on the status of US citizens detained in Iran, the effect of current sanctions, and the prospects of sanctions coordination with other nations on Iran.
At the last moment, a hodgepodge of new sanctions against North Korea were added. It targets the North Korean shipping industry, anyone known to use North Korean forced or slave labor, and any financial institutions facilitating the flow of money into North Korea; it also expands the list of individuals covered by previous sanctions.
Who It Will Affect: Obviously, measures have a direct effect on the individuals, groups, and nations its sanctions target. But the extent of those effects (and the overall effectiveness of sanctions) is up for debate. All three nations have long been under some level of US sanctions and shown extreme resilience. The Russian stock market didn't even bat an eye at these new measures.
No matter how much they feel their effects, the sanctions serve as a signal of ill will. North Korea has claimed a recent missile test was part of retaliations for the sanctions; more such response may follow. Iran believes these sanctions violate the deal under which it froze its nuclear program.
Russia has taken the hardest line in response, seizing two US properties, demanding the United States cut down its diplomatic staff in Russia, and promising further expulsions tit for tat with any American reductions of Russian diplomatic staff. Russia is using these sanctions to advance a national narrative in which America wants to choke off Russian oil and gas to advance the economic interests of its own energy sector.
The bill has also caused issues in the EU, which is not happy the US put sanctions on Russia without consulting Europe.
This law has also had a deep effect on Trump and may color his relationship with Congress moving forward. Trump reportedly considered vetoing this bill and has chafed at the limits to his power to revoke or loosen sanctions. This bill not only went against Trump's wishes, it was also the first major piece of legislation to come onto his desk as president.
It doesn't help that, by signing the bill, Trump has been forced to more openly admit that Russia may have played a role in the election that brought him to power than he ever has before. Aggravating Iran and North Korea won't help his foreign policy workload either.
For More: Trump calls sanctions bill unconstitutional, signs it anyway
Presidential Memorandum 49: Notice Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Lebanon
What It Will Do: America has been at odds with Hezbollah and related Iranian-backed and/or pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon since they emerged as a resistance movement during Israel's early 1980s occupation of that country's south. In 1995, America declared Hezbollah, by then operating as a controversial but ultimately legitimate political party in Lebanon, a foreign terrorist organization, imposing sanctions on them or any who would do business with them.
Then on August 1, 2007, amid signs of rising political tensions between Hezbollah and its supporters and a pro-Western Lebanese government, President George W. Bush used an executive order to declare a national emergency in Lebanon. He claimed individuals and groups arming Hezbollah, abetting Syrian influence in Lebanon , and otherwise challenging the sitting government were a threat to US interests in Lebanese sovereignty and regional stability. Using the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, his order imposed new sanctions freezing the assets and barring American transactions with anyone determined to be involved in or supporting these activities. Essentially, this provided a broader set of economic tools to strike against Hezbollah and its affiliates or supporters.
These new sanctions, under the provision of the 1977 IEEPA, require yearly renewals to stay in force. This action is Trump's statement that the situation in Lebanon that gave rise to these sanctions persists, and his decision to continue their status quo accordingly.
Who It Will Affect: Ultimately this just maintains policy that's been in place for a decade now—and that seems to have had little effect on Hezbollah or its supporters or affiliates to date.
Presidential Memorandum 48: Letter from the President to the Congress of the United States [Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Lebanon] What It Will Do: Statute requires that, to continue Bush II-era sanctions tools against Hezbollah and its supporters and affiliates for another year, as Trump does in the above action, he has to issue another memorandum informing Congress of his intention to do so. This is that.
Presidential Proclamation 59: [Proclaiming] July 27, 2017, As National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
What It Will Do: This is an annual presidential duty that marks the July 27, 1953, cessation of hostilities between Chinese-backed North Korean forces and South Korea and 16 nations, including the US, fighting under the banner of the United Nations. Specifically, it honors the service of the 1.8 million Americans who served in the conflict. Trump's text notes (accurately) that this war is often forgotten, sandwiched as it was between World War II and the Vietnam War, and explicitly honors the 36,000 Americans confirmed dead in the conflict. He calls for appropriate ceremonies to commemorate their service. But his text also notes that North Korea, through its recent nuclear weapons and missile tests, still poses a threat to peace on the Korean peninsula and affirms his intentions of standing by its allies.
Who It Will Affect: As in previous years, veterans groups and other bodies across the nation will hold events honoring those who served in the conflict and marking peace on the peninsula. However beyond these usual and uncontroversial functions, Trump's rhetoric on North Korea in this year's proclamation—language absent in Obama's text last year—stresses how tense America's standoff with North Korea has become.
Presidential Proclamation 58: [Proclaiming] July 26, 2017, As A Day in Celebration of The 27 th Anniversary of The Americans with Disabilities Act
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty, this action commemorates the 1990 passage of the landmark anti-discrimination legislation. Trump's text claims that his administration is committed to fighting discrimination against those with disabilities, explicitly stating that the White House will encourage innovations in medicine and science to make it easier for those with disabilities to participate in the workforce. It also directs Americans to mark this anniversary as they see fit.
Who It Will Affect: Groups across the nation traditionally mark this day with marches, rallies, speeches, and other events. However this year's celebrations will likely be marked by anxiety or consternation, fueled by the recognition that Trump's claims in this action are empty platitudes masking a blatant disregard and disrespect for the ADA and those it seeks to protect.
While campaigning in 2015, Trump notoriously mocked a disabled reporter, mimicking his physical impairment in front of a crowd. His real estate developments and casting calls for The Apprentice had a long history of blatantly and at times excessively egregiously disregarding ADA requirements. In 2016, Trump attempted to claim that he'd done more than anyone else for people with disabilities, but he was essentially demanding praise for the times when he did adhere to ADA requirements, a.k.a. following the law. As soon as Trump took power, his White House removed its web pages related to disability rights and opportunities, and ended its audio tours for the blind.
And of course the healthcare plan Trump backs is seen as disastrous, even life-threatening, by millions of disabled Americans. Right around the time Trump was signing this action, numerous disabled Americans were arrested while protesting a Senate vote to open debate on a Republican healthcare plan. Similar protests have seen many other disabled Americans dragged out of wheelchairs, pulled away, knocked over, or otherwise assaulted for defending their right to life and human dignity against Trumpian policies—and we've heard nary a peep from the White House defending their political rights and physical integrity. Trump and his cronies have advanced a number of other policies, or failed to enforce others, that will inevitably harm the disabled community—including limiting their participation in the workforce.
Even the language of this text can be read to imply that Trump believes the disabled are best served by finding ways to medically or scientifically cure or cancel out their disabilities, rather than accommodating or working with differently abled bodies—a core conceit of the ADA. His action certainly does not focus on elements of the ADA disability rights activists would like to see addressed, like improving regulatory or oversight frameworks around its enforcement.
Executive Order 40: Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States
What It Will Do: This action begins by arguing that, since 2000, about 60,000 factories have closed in and five million manufacturing jobs have vanished from America, and that a number of vital products for national defense are now only available through one source, or via fragile supply chains. The text argues this means that America's preparedness for any sort of crisis is not what it should be. To rectify this perceived systemic fragility, this action calls for the Secretary of Defense, working with the Secretaries of Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, and Labor, all consulting with the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and the Interior, the Directors of the National Intelligence Agency, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, and the Assistants to the President for Economic Policy and for National Security, and any others they all deem fit to loop in, to draft a report on American manufacturing and the defense industrial base and supply chain within 270 days.
The report's scope is exceptionally wide. It's meant to identify every item relevant to national security, the capabilities necessary to manufacture or procure them all, the contingencies that could realistically disrupt that procurement or manufacture in the short or long terms, how resilient each aspect of this massive supply chain and product base would be to each disruption, and how easily a disrupted chain or process could be replaced. The report will also recommend legislative, policy, or regulatory adjustments that the president or various federal agencies can pursue to mitigate any disruptive contingencies or strengthen resiliency against them.
Who It Will Affect: Team Trump is touting this as the first-ever systematic and government-wide review of America's defense industrial base. This is good messaging for Trump, as it combines his popular rhetoric about bolstering US manufacturing with his popular rhetoric on military strength, showing a double-proof sign of action to his base. However, this text likely invents or plays up a problem to generate that image of foresight and accomplishment. While America has lost many manufacturing jobs and sites, productivity remains exceptionally strong as manufacturing has grown more automated and efficient. Defense analysts also argue that while elements of the supply chain may look weak, they are more resilient than they seem. This report could identify a few shortcomings and present valid solutions to them. But it's just as likely to yield less of substance than the hype around it would suggest.
Presidential Memoranda 46 and 47: Notice of Withdrawal Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations [and] A Message to the Congress of the United States [Regarding the Same]
What They Will Do: These actions rescind memoranda 45 (see below) and notify Congress of such an action as required under law. This isn't Trump going back on his continuation of Obama's anti-criminal organization sanctions, though. The memoranda immediately replace Trump's old text with a replacement that accomplishes the same thing but uses slightly different language. This may matter on an esoteric procedural level, but does not in substance.
Who They Will Affect: See memoranda 44 and 45.
Executive Order 39: Establishing a Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure
What It Will Do: This creates the Council mentioned in its title, placing that body under the managerial auspices of the Department of Commerce. It outlines that the council will be composed of at most 15 members, appointed by the president, from outside of the government, all of whom must have experience in communications technology, construction, environmental policy, finance, real estate, regional or local economic development, transportation and logistics, and/or any other areas the president deems appropriate. All of these individuals shall serve without compensation, save for ad hoc expenses and per diems. The Council is to have two co-chairs, also selected from its ranks by the president, who may in turn appoint one or more vice-chairs as they see fit.
The Council is tasked with studying the scope and effectiveness of current government funding for aviation, broadband, electricity transmission, port and waterway, renewable energy, transit, water resources, and other infrastructure projects. It is also tasked with making recommendations to the president on how to improve federal support for infrastructure projects, with a focus on how to accelerate pre-construction approvals, develop new funding options, increase public-private partnerships, and generally streamline the regulatory environment. It is likewise tasked with identifying best practices and opportunities for resource procurement, grant procedures, project delivery, and finding ways to promote advanced manufacturing and technological innovation related to infrastructure development. The Secretary of Commerce is directed to submit other questions to the Council for consideration and investigation within 60 days of this action.
All the Council's findings and recommendations on these issues are to be compiled into a report, to be given to the president. The exact deadline for that report is not specified. However, the Council is to disband by December 31, 2018, unless it needs more time to compile that report. It's also instructed to disband within 60 days of issuing a report if it gets done earlier than that.
Who It Will Affect: Like most of Trump's broad asks for reports from newly minted councils, this action doesn't do very much, save set a few people to unpaid work. That work will either yield actual policy proposals down the line, or meander on, going nowhere, and coming to nothing. In the short term, though, this action is clearly an echo of Trump's recent theme weeks, including Infrastructure Week at the start of June, all of which are meant to draw popular attention to topics on which Trump usually polls well or has a good (if undeserved) reputation—at least with his base. Ironically, the search for policy to support infrastructure embedded in this Council's tasks suggests that Trump, despite all his bluster about a $1 trillion infrastructure plan (which has yet to emerge), doesn't have a really solid and comprehensive approach to the issue after all. As such, this action will boost Trump's ego and base support, but reaffirm his ineptitude to others.
Presidential Memorandum 45: Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations
What It Will Do: In July 2011, then-President Obama issued an executive order that declared transnational criminal organizations like drug cartels a threat to national security and used the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act to freeze their assets in the US, along with those of anyone determined to be conspiring with them. This measure went beyond existing sanctions provisions against drug kingpins, widening economic penalties available against organized criminal outfits. However, that action needed to be renewed annually for its tools to stay in effect. This memorandum is Trump's first annual renewal of said policy; his text argues that these groups still pose a threat to the nation through their facilitation of illegal acts and violence and abetting of conflicts and other violent actors.
Who It Will Affect:This action just maintains a six-year-old sanction tool—and the status quo.
Presidential Memorandum 44: A Message to the Congress of the United States [Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations]
What It Will Do: US law requires that, to continue Obama-era sanctions tools against transnational criminal organizations for another year, as Trump does in the above action, he has to issue another memorandum informing Congress of his intention to do so. This is that.
Who It Will Affect: See above.
Presidential Proclamation 57: [Proclaiming] July 17, 2017, As Made in America Day and This Week, July 16 through July 22, As Made in America Week
What It Will Do: This action does pretty much just what it says and no more. The text notes that this day and week honor the role of American workers, jobs, and innovation in developing iconic objects and products (from the New York skyline to beef to GPS—seriously, those are some examples Trump gives) and for helping to develop America. It's all extremely broad and vague. But it's a wide vehicle for Trump to reaffirm his administration's stated devotion to renegotiating trade deals across the globe to bring manufacturing back to the US and open new markets to US-made products and to cutting taxes and regulations to (in team Trump's view) encourage innovation and job growth.
Who It Will Affect: Short on concrete details or plans for action or observation, it's more aggressive showmanship intended to highlight one of the issues Trump's team thinks plays with his base and potential supporters. As with past issue-focused weeks, this refocusing pivot is clearly meant to distract from Trump's worsening Russia scandal woes. But while this stagecraft may play well with those who buy into Trump's trade and manufacturing rhetoric, it also highlights the fact that Trump and his family's companies and products rely heavily on foreign goods and labor. It also risks highlighting just how underwhelming Trump's actions have been in comparison to his rhetoric on trade to date, despite promising some tariffs on steel and issuing his main points for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement on the same day he issued this proclamation.
Presidential Proclamation 56: [Proclaiming] July 16 through July 22, 2017, As Captive Nations Week
What It Will Do: This is an annual presidential duty dating to 1959, when President Dwight Eisenhower decided the US should show its solidarity with nations in the orbit of the USSR. As such, it's a fundamentally Cold War-esque sentiment, framing the Soviet Union as a brutal, conquering force of illiberalism and oppression. While later presidents have tried not to make too much of it, the proclamation has endured past the Cold War as a vehicle for touting America's self-proclaimed moral superiority and status as a global defender of freedom and independence, and for calling out authoritarianism, human rights abuses, and general human suffering. Trump's text does just that—albeit very broadly—invoking platitudes like Ronald Reagan's "shining city on a hill" speech. It also instructs Americans to reaffirm our solidarity with "captive nations."
Who It Will Affect: This is usually an innocuous action—if anachronistic and irksome to those who question American moralizing given our profoundly illiberal, undemocratic modern legacies around the globe. However this proclamation reads as especially ironic coming from Trump.
Rather than just turn a blind eye to human rights abuses around the world to cooperate with the authoritarian regimes on strategic goals, Trump has expressly praised and implicitly endorsing the actions of a number of particularly atrocious world leaders. Meanwhile he's done very little to even espouse human rights and freedom as moral goals or ideals.
Executive Order 38: Allowing Additional Time for Recognizing Positive Actions by the Government of Sudan and Amending Executive Order 13761
What It Will Do: America has been at odds with Sudan ever since Colonel Omar al-Bashir seized control of the government in a 1989 Islamist military coup. In 1993 the US listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terror, a status that imposed sanctions, due to its hosting of Osama bin Laden. Sanctions were ratcheted up dramatically via a 1997 executive order, strengthened by another in 2006, making it all but impossible for America and Sudan to trade with each other or for those in Sudan to access international financial tools.
However, after decades of harsh sanctions some in the US and beyond have begun to doubt whether completely ostracizing Sudan is having the desired effect. Sudan has also been forced to reassess its actions as the nation's economy has suffered greatly since the loss of the bulk of its oil fields during the secession of South Sudan in 2011; acquiescence to pressure from the US in exchange for greater access to trade and financial resources has grown attractive.
In January the Obama administration decided to lift some sanctions on the nation, in recognition of Sudan's working with the US against terror groups and lessening its military aggression. Issued with the then-incoming Trump administration's reported approval, Barack Obama's executive order implementing this thaw stipulated that this easement could become permanent if, by July 12, the al-Bashir regime showed progress in further reducing military aggression against its people, pledged to cease its internal conflicts, addressed regional conflicts proactively, made provisions for better internal access to humanitarian aid, and improved its counterterrorism cooperation with the US.
In this order, Trump delays that report and presidential decision (at the last minute) from July 12 to October 12 and revokes requirements for follow-up reports, essentially ducking the decision.
Who It Will Affect: Opponents of the thawing of Sudanese sanctions have applauded this move, arguing that Sudan has not yet adequately reduced its internal aggression or improved access to humanitarian aid. They believe this time should be used to strengthen or better define Obama's requirements for sanctions relief, especially to include more explicit mention of human rights issues. However for the Trump administration the delay may have been less a principled stance and more a reflection of limited capacity and an aversion to potential criticism. The Trump administration has yet to fill many key Africa policy positions and has reportedly not developed a clear approach to Sudan.
Presidential Memorandum 43: A Message to the Congress of the Untied States [Regarding Executive Order 38]
What It Will Do: This action literally just fulfills a statutory duty, requiring that the president notify Congress directly of his intention to make the changes outlined in Executive Order 38.
Who It Will Affect: See Executive Order 38.
Executive Order 37: Reviving the National Space Council
What It Will Do: The National Space Council was formed in 1958 to help coordinate America's emerging space policy, and especially to devise moonshot goals to one-up the Soviet Union—literally, the council fed John F. Kennedy the idea of putting a man on the moon. But soon after America hit that goal in 1969, the council influence waned. It stopped meeting in 1973, and though George H.W. Bush revived it in 1989, it stopped meeting once more after he left office in 1993. It's been functionally dead—although it was never officially disbanded—for 24 years.
This action revives the council. Its composition will similar to that of the council under Bush, but leans more heavily on security than civilian science officials. It will review and develop long-term space goals, monitor and coordinate their implementation, and facilitate better communication and cooperation between civil, military, and private space endeavors. The council will meet at least once a year. Within a year of this action, and annually thereafter, it will issue a report to the president on its positions and progress; the chair will liaise with the president at least four times a year on the activities of the council.
Who It Will Affect: In the past, the council was not exactly beloved by members of the various agencies it coordinated, which apparently saw it as stifling oversight of their activities and needless bureaucracy. But this revival, which Trump has been promising since March, is broadly seen as good and necessary. The space environment has grown endlessly complex with the rise of private commercial ventures and coordination between these new actors, and even between state agencies, has not been stellar. Reforming the council ostensibly signals a renewed dedication to space exploration, something Trump seems to see as linked to American grandeur and prestige.
But it remains to be seen how dedicated Trump is to space-related policies. Notably, this action was signed with little notice or fanfare—untelevised and just before a holiday weekend. That's not a sign of prioritization; it's checking a chore off a list to make one's self feel productive in a stressful time. Trump has yet to appoint a NASA administrator or Office of Science and Technology Policy director, two key seats. Space industry insiders were puzzled by the individuals who attended the signing, who seemed to represent traditional space business interests and not the innovators or government scientists many agree need to be talking to move exploration forward. That composition raises serious questions about who exactly Trump thinks should be influencing the Council, and what he hopes it will achieve.
H.R.1238: Securing our Agriculture and Food Act
What It Will Do: This act tweaks the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to make the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Health Affairs responsible for coordinating a departmental approach to defending America's food, agriculture, and veterinary sectors against terrorism.
Who It Will Affect: Although America has not witnessed any recent acts of food system terror, the criticality and potential vulnerability of this sector to something like a biological attack (for instance, with a weaponized crop or livestock pathogen) has made it a matter of industry and bipartisan political concern for years. The basic act of putting someone on point to defend against this real possibility is a pretty straightforward move.
Presidential Proclamation 55: To Modify Duty-Free Treatment under the Generalized System of Preferences and for Other Purposes
What It Will Do: This supremely wonky technical action lays out Trump's justifications for imposing new tariffs and revoking special duty-free status on certain goods from certain countries and for correcting what he claims are certain technical errors in America's Harmonized Tariff Schedule created by previous actions. The specific tariffs and tweaks are included in annexes that do not yet appear on the White House's website, making the practical and specific effects of this broad proclamation hard to articulate.
Who It Will Affect: Regardless of which items and countries this affects, this action is part of Trump's pivot back towards trade this week. His team has adopted a much more explicitly nativist policy after weeks of infighting between pro- and anti-globalist advisors, albeit this new nativism is more limited than it could have been.
Presidential Memorandum 42: For the Secretary of Commerce: Delegation of Authority under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998
What It Will Do: This delegates authority from the president to the Secretary of Commerce for preparing reports, required under section 1211 of the NDAA for FY 1998, detailing and justifying any changes to the rules for exporting or re-exporting certain especially high-powered computers to certain specified countries.
Who It Will Affect: This is a pretty wonky matter. It seems mainly to be just the transfer of more governance away from Trump and onto his cabinet and other advisors.
Presidential Memorandum 41: For The Secretary of Homeland Security: Delegation of Authority under the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017
What It Will Do: This action delegates the president's duty, under section 710 of the bill cited in its title, to issue a report to relevant congressional committees within 90 days of the law's enactment on existing and future strategies to combat terrorist organizations' use of social media. This, and any future similar reports, are now the Secretary of Homeland Security's duty.
Who It Will Affect: Mostly it's just more work for the Department of Homeland Security. But it's also another signal, much like Trump's last memorandum, that the man who convinced his followers he knew how to handle America's enemies isn't actually that interested in dealing with them and is content to delegate.
S.1083: A Bill to Amend Section 1214 of Title 5, United States Code, to Provide for Stays during a Period That the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) Lacks a Quorum
What It Will Do: This measure makes a tiny tweak to the US Code to allow just what it says it will in its title. The MSPB is a quasi-legal body created in 1979 to review claims that firings or long-term suspensions have occurred for political, personal, or otherwise non-meritocratic reasons. The bill ultimately seeks to make it easier for cases to receive stays, when requested by the Office of Special Counsel, when (as at present) the MSPB is not fully staffed to give federal employees longer to have their cases heard.
Who It Will Affect: This measure will likely be welcome news to any federal workers trying to argue that they were wrongly terminated. It does seemingly fly in the face of Trump's push to make it easier and faster to fire federal employees in the name of efficiency. It is more likely that this measure is a response to a particular reality recognized by Congress, which has a long track record of protecting whistleblowers, rather than some direct rebuke to the administration.
S.1094: Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act
What It Will Do: This bill takes a number of steps to increase protections for whistleblowers in the Department of Veterans Affairs while simultaneously making it easier to fire employees. Both moves are intended as correctives to the department following scandals that emerged (thanks to whistleblowers) in 2014 about unduly long and sometimes fatal wait times and employee attempts to cover them up. These scandals have been addressed by a number of subsequent bills and policies. But the VA is still notoriously plagued with service and efficiency issues.
The first portion of the bill establishes an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, to be headed by a new presidential appointee position within the VA, an assistant secretary working directly under the department's secretary. This official and his or her office will have no other duties to distract them in their mission to develop new disclosure policies and protective guarantees for whistleblowers and trainings on how to handle them within the department. The office will also hear whistleblower complaints against all levels of officials within the VA and work to increase responsiveness to the issues they bring to light.
The second portion of the bill shortens the period of time for senior executive or civil servant appeals of firings or disciplinary actions. The burden of evidence to back a disciplinary action or termination decision during these appeals is also lowered. The VA secretary is also granted authority to reduce the benefits of removed or retired employees who are or have been convicted of crimes, pending reviews of said decisions by an oversight body.
Who It Will Affect: Many observers see this bill as an improvement on earlier incarnations that did less to balance speedy terminations with protections against capricious or political motives and failed to provide enough supports whistleblowers. This legislative iteration received massive bipartisan support in Congress. Proponents believe the act's provisions will boost transparency within the department and improve the flow and accountability of a notoriously bureaucratically moribund institution that's had trouble disciplining flagrantly ineffective or improper employees in the past. However civil servant groups worry that the act will still make politically-motivated firings and discipline easier, deter the attraction of new talent into the department, and lower worker morale. They argue that time and resources would better be spent filling the tens of thousands of vacancies in department facilities nationwide and better funding their operations, rather than banking on the removal of a few bad apples to freshen up the whole sector.
Executive Order 36: Amending Executive Order 13597
What It Will Do: This action deletes one section of Obama's January 19, 2012, executive order entitled "Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness." That section required that 80 percent of non-immigrant visa applicants should receive interviews within three weeks of the receipt of their application, recognizing that security considerations and the need to provide consular services to American citizens at embassies could scuttle that goal from time to time. The Trump administration has stated that scrapping this guideline will give them more freedom to expand vetting and take their time in evaluating the backgrounds of those who wish to travel to the United States.
Who It Will Affect: This action will likely extend the time it takes for many foreigners to receive travel, business, school, or other nonimmigrant visas to the United States. However it is unclear how much longer it will take and for which individuals.
Presidential Memorandum 40: For the Secretary of Defense—Delegation of Authority under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017
What It Will Do: This action delegates the responsibilities of the president under section 10,005 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, i.e. the long-delayed 2017 fiscal year budget, to the Secretary of Defense. That section required the president to submit a plan to defeat ISIS to relevant congressional committees and then wait 15 days before $2.4 million in spending allocations would officially be opened up for use in that military endeavor.
Who It Will Affect: This act of delegation really only affects Secretary Jim Mattis and his staff. After boasting that he had a secret plan to defeat ISIS, Trump has delegated most practical authority over America's anti-ISIS operations to his generals.
Presidential Memoranda 38 and 39 Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to North Korea [ And a Message to Congress on this Action ]
What It Will Do: This is Trump's first continuation of the provisions of a 2009 executive order, which has been amended several times (most recently in March 2016), imposing ever-increasing sanctions on North Korea and its operatives to try to dissuade them from developing their ballistic and nuclear weapons programs, direct threats to America and our East Asian allies. Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, the authority under which the sanctions were imposed, these measures have to be renewed annually.
Who It Will Affect: Although technically this is just a continuation of existing policy, it packs some surprising umph, as North Korea, barreling ahead with nuclear tests despite sanctions, has quickly become Trump's foremost foreign policy challenge. The continuation of this policy also coincides with the return and subsequent death of Otto Warmbier, an American detained in North Korea for over a year. In this context of growing threat and discord, this continuation of policy draws even more attention to the issue.
Presidential Memoranda 36 and 37: Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Western Balkans [ And a Message to Congress on this Action ]
What It Will Do: This is Trump's first continuation of the provisions of a 2001 executive order, amended in 2003, that imposed sanctions on individuals involved in extremist violence or other actions that could jeopardize the peace process in the Balkans, following the regional conflicts of the 1990s. Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, the authority under which the sanctions were imposed, these measures have to be renewed annually.
Who It Will Affect: This is just Trump maintaining a course of action following up on a conflict that has long since left the popular consciousness. The action didn't even seem to inspire that much attention in the Western Balkans, honestly.
Presidential Memorandum 35: On Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba
What It Will Do: This action orders 26 federal agency and department heads and key advisors to begin the process of peeling back some (but not all) of Obama's historic US-Cuban relations reset. The text opens with strong rhetoric decrying Cuba's broad human rights abuses, claiming that moving back toward greater restrictions will help the Cuban people to prosper. The memorandum's preamble also makes it clear that this is just an initial action; further policy shifts may still come.
The text orders the US government to adjust regulations to preclude commercial transactions with the Cuban intelligence, military, and security complex or any of its affiliate organizations and personnel. (That's a big deal, as these bodies control or are woven into an estimated 50 to 60 percent of the nation's economy.) Government agencies are also instructed to create a list of all entities under this category for Americans' commercial reference. Trump notes that the secretaries should, as they propose or execute policy adjustments, carve out a few exceptions to this broad prohibition for select deals related to agriculture, communications, pro-democracy initiatives, medical goods, remittances transactions, transit logistics, security-related arrangements (such as the continued leasing of Guantanamo Bay), and anything else that seems pertinent.
Trump also instructs the treasury secretary, in consultation with the secretary of state, to start adjusting rules and regulations to ratchet up enforcement of the extant ban on US tourism to Cuba. America has long allowed some travel to Cuba, but usually only with state permission and often through organized groups. Obama's thaw did not legalize tourism, but allowed people to plan "educational" trips to the island as individuals, which functionally opened a tourism spigot. This section of the memorandum explicitly targets that permissiveness, asking the secretaries to better define legitimate educational travel. The secretaries are also to begin requiring travelers to keep full and records of all of their financial transactions on the island for five years after a trip for potential federal travel and spending restriction compliance audits. As a capstone to these renewed travel restrictions, the secretaries of commerce, state, transportation, and the treasury are ordered to review enforcement of legal limits on outright Cuban tourism over the next 90 days.
Beyond these major shifts, the secretary of the treasury is to adjust regulatory definitions on who qualifies as a member, employee, or affiliate of the Cuban regime. The secretary of state and America's representative to the United Nations are instructed to oppose any pressures in international bodies or forums to end the US embargo on Cuba. There are also requests for reports about Cuban human rights abuses, American fugitives living in Cuban, and the advancement of US interests on the island.
Finally, a slew of federal agencies and departments are instructed to form a task force alongside the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (America's Cuba-targeted media stream) and various NGOs and private sector actors to assess challenges facing and opportunities for the expansion of internet access in Cuba.
Who It Will Affect: The Trump administration insists this will help the Cuban people by limiting the flow of American wealth to the Cuban regime and making sure that what cash does come into the nation goes to private citizens and free enterprise. But a plethora of Cuba observers have noted that the explosion of US travel to Cuba under the thaw (which reportedly grew 74 percent from 2015 to 2016 and was set to double this year) has been one of the strongest engines for growth in the nascent Cuban private sector, itself opened fairly recently by Cuban president Raúl Castro.
Analysts and individuals in the Cuban tourism sector alike largely believe that new travel restrictions and audits will cut this boom short and pressure American visitors back toward large tour groups. These tour groups at times have ties to and are well controlled by Cuban government agents, are reportedly favored by the regime, and for the sake of regularity and reliability will likely bypass the small hotels, restaurants, bars, and other institutions that have in no small part defined private Cuban wealth and an emerging middle class over the past couple of years. It will also be difficult, given how deeply intertwined the state is with life in Cuba, for the Trump government to consistently and accurately define actors it may wish to blacklist.
This policy may also hinder Cuban democracy. Although Trump has insisted America got nothing out of Obama's deal with Cuba, Raúl Castro actually increased internet access in the country, among other little concessions to freer speech and markets. (There have been moves in the other direction as well, such as an increase in political arrests.)
Trump's sudden reversal and harsh rhetoric has alienated the Cuban regime, spoiling hopes for continued incremental advances via diplomacy. Trump's clear favor for antiquated strong-arm tactics lends newfound credence to one of the Castro regime's strongest sources of legitimacy: resistance to American imperialism.
In truth this adjustment seems mostly targeted at bolstering Trump's popularity with Cuban American Republicans. During the 2016 campaign he promised to wholly eliminate Obama's deal, which he described as entirely one-sided in Cuba's favor.
Writ short, this action is a bid at destroying the Obama legacy as an end in and of itself, and at bolstering the Trump brand by seemingly delivering on a campaign promise to a tiny sector of America. It's making a ton of noise to telegraph action, while doing little of substance and potentially spoiling much in the process. It's classic Trumpain governance.
Executive Order: Expanding Apprenticeships in America
What It Will Do: This aims to drastically increase the number of apprenticeships America and improve the quality and efficiency of federal workforce development programs. Trump hopes this will help close a skills gap—the issue is that it's hard to match the under- and unemployed with training that they need to fill America's 6 million vacant jobs. Trump's text explicitly notes that the nation has 350,000 manufacturing jobs that often require skills that are hard to find among job seekers.
The order instructs the secretary of the Department of Labor to come up with regulations to incentivize businesses and trade and industry groups to develop new apprenticeships. Since 1937, the federal government has played a major role in crafting the parameters and guiding the development of apprenticeships. This move gives business groups more autonomy in determining how to structure these programs using their own standards, which will be reviewed and approved as quickly as possible by the feds.
It also creates a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion to be chaired by the secretary of Labor and made up of 20 appointed representatives of business, education, trade, industry, and labor union groups. Commerce and Labor are instructed to try to incentivize programs in the cybersecurity, healthcare, infrastructure, and manufacturing sectors especially.
Within two years, Labor is supposed to develop an Excellence in Apprenticeship Program to recognize and commend those business and industry players who make progress in developing programs. The department will also use whatever funds it can to it to promote apprenticeships. The Secretary of Education is instructed to encourage two- and four-year colleges to increase student participation in apprenticeships, while other departments are instructed to promote apprenticeship participation among high schoolers, current and former inmates, armed services members and veterans, and others.
The order does not specify the number of apprenticeships it hopes to create or the funds it wants funneled to its goals. But in the lead-up to the signing of the order, Trump claimed he wants to see 5 million apprenticeships created over the next ten years and $200 million in grant money directed to those ends by the Department of Labor. The department now has $90 million in its budget allocated towards these ends; the rest is to be reallocated from other of its funds.
When it comes to the second function of the order, making workforce development and training programs more efficient, the text is more brief—and slightly more stick than carrot. Each of the 13 federal agencies operating the government's 43 national programs is instructed to evaluate the efficacy of its programs at placing job seekers into jobs, ideally using third-party evaluators, unless it has already carried out a recent evaluation. In their 2019 budget requests to the Office of Management and Budget, these agencies will have to report on their programs' efficacies and outcomes, recommending administrative or legislative reforms to improve them or offering to eliminate ineffective or redundant programs. These evaluations will be factored into the development of the Trump administration's fiscal year 2019 budget.
Who It Will Affect: Pretty much everyone agrees that developing more apprenticeships and improving worker training are vital goods. Apprenticeships in particular have a strong track record for employment and increased lifetime earnings. It was actually Obama who brought federal focus back to the issue in 2014 after a long lapse of attention; he created the first programmatic grant funding for these programs, on which Trump is now building.
However, Obama's policies only got America up to 505,371 apprenticeships in 2016, from 350,000 in 2010. That's still just 0.3 percent of America's workforce, compared to other Western countries where apprenticeships make up between 2 and 4 percent of the national workforce. Completion rates for these programs are still low and they are still heavily concentrated in construction and manufacturing, despite a known need in fields like agriculture and information technology. Apprenticeship awareness and development is a bipartisan and well-known issue; Hillary Clinton and the Democrats made it a priority in 2016.
But while the general idea is popular, it's hard to ignore how scant on details this order is. Trump seems to believe he can massively expand apprenticeships by reducing restrictions and opening up freedom for businesses to act. And industry groups have applauded him for this. But skeptics note that businesses have always been free to develop unregulated apprenticeships, yet few have taken the initiative in the past.
Keen Trump observers have also noticed that this move is a bit of an about-face for the president. Back in March, Trump's 2018 budget proposal only boosted apprenticeship spending to $95 million, not $200 million as here, while slashing job training programs by 40 percent as part of a one-fifth cut to the Department of Labor. It also took away $1 million in grants directed specifically at incentivizing women's participation in apprenticeships. Combined with the fact that Trump's 5 million new apprenticeship goal may have come from an on-the-spot response to a challenge by the CEO of Salesforce.com in March, critics may rightfully wonder how much thought Trump has put into this push.
H.R.657: Follow the Rules Act
What It Will Do: Until recently, the Whistleblower Protection Act only protected federal workers from retribution when they refused to obey a superior's orders if doing so would have required them to break a law. This act tweaks a few words in the US Code to extend that protection to workers refusing orders that would force them to break rules and regulations, too.
Who It Will Affect: This seems like a tiny and overly semantic tweak. But it stems directly from at least one legal case in which the courts decided that a whistleblower wasn't protected for refusing to break a rule or regulation rather than a law under the old wording. So this tweak was necessary and will likely help whistleblowers throughout the government. This tiny tweak is actually part of a long tradition of Congress incrementally increasing whistleblower protections in the name of transparency and propriety when they realize the courts are not as liberal as they would like in their interpretations of existing laws and their spirit.
Presidential Proclamation 53: [Proclaiming] June 14, 2017, as Flag Day, and This Week as National Flag Week
What It Will Do: This is an annual presidential duty: Regular Flag Day proclamations date back to 1949 and regular Flag Week proclamations to 1966. Trump's text makes the usual perfunctory statements about the adoption of the stars and stripes as the United State's flag on June 14, 1777, and its importance as a symbol of our nation's values and the sacrifices made for them. However, Trump couldn't help but point out that Flag Day is also his birthday.
Who It Will Affect: Trump's proclamation instructs federal buildings to fly the national colors on Flag Day. And on Flag Week, he encourages all citizens to do the same on their residences.
Presidential Memorandum 34: For the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence: [Regarding the] Effective Date in Executive Order 13780
What It Will Do: Trump's revised travel ban, issued on March 6, explicitly stated that its 90-day restrictions on travelers from six Muslim-majority nations and 120-day refugee program freeze would go into effect on March 16. Opponents of the ban have argued that even though courts have blocked the ban since before it could take effect, this means its Muslim nation traveler provisions expired on June 14; they claim the Department of Justice acknowledged this in a March 24 court filing. This, they say, should mean that key provisions of the order are moot and therefore there is no reason for the Supreme Court to hear a case on its legitimacy or consider lifting lower courts' bans on its implementation, as the administration requested it to this month.
This action is Trump's response to this criticism. It states that the blocks on elements of the order froze their effective dates as well. Unblocked elements of the order are authorized to move ahead, but the clock shall only start on the Muslim country travel and refugee program bans 72 hours after the injunctions against those provisions are lifted. (This 72-hour grace period is meant to avoid a sudden implementation and the attendant chaos the first version of the travel ban engendered back in January.)
Who It Will Affect: This move does increase the chance that the Supreme Court will chose to hear the case against the travel ban. However it does not completely eliminate the temporal challenges to the case's validity. On June 12, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unblocked part of the executive order in question, allowing the administration to start its review of traveler, immigrant, and refugee vetting processes. The clock on this review process will, even under this action's provisions, run out by the time the Supreme Court would be able to hear the case. Since the travel and refugee bans were meant to be temporary pauses to free up time and resources to complete this review, this would arguably mean that these frozen actions would be moot by the time the Supreme Court case started. As such, there is still a cogent argument that the provisions and timing of the order could preclude it from being heard by the nation's highest court, effectively killing it. The Supreme Court, however, has yet to decide whether to hear the case.
Presidential Memorandum 33: For the Secretary of Defense: Presidential Determination Pursuant to Section 433(a)(5) of the Defense Production Act of 1950 [Regarding National Security Critical Technology Items]
What It Will Do: Under the Defense Production Act of 1950, the president has the right to order the procurement or production of industrial resources or technology deemed critical for national security, so long as he informs other relevant governmental bodies of the fact in due time and order. This is Trump fulfilling that obligation, initiating the exploration of tech to make up for shortfalls in a hodgepodge of technical areas he has deemed relevant to national security. Namely: adenovirus vaccine production capabilities, high-strength fire- and ballistic-resistant co-polymer aramid fibers industrial capabilities, secure hybrid composite shipping container industrial capability, and three-dimensional ultra-high density microelectronics.
Who It Will Affect: This is a very routine, wonky action.
Presidential Memorandum 32: A Letter from the President to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services, and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs [Regarding America's Space Industrial Base]
What It Will Do: Another case of Trump fulfilling the obligations of the Defense Production Act. Namely, he's ordering the Department of Defense to identify ways to bolster our space structures and fibers, radiation hardened microelectronics, radiation testing and qualification facilities, and satellite components and assembly facilities.
Who It Will Affect: This is a pretty technical move, and one that will likely just affect the wonkier sectors of the US government's space programs. However it is another, if subtle, sign that Trump seems to have a soft spot for space exploration.
For More: Read about Trump's plans for space domination
Presidential Memorandum 31: A Letter from the President to the Congress of the United States [Regarding a Continuation of a Declared National Emergency with Respect to Belarus]
What It Will Do: This is Trump's first continuation of the provisions of a 2006, executive order that imposed sanctions on Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka and members of his regime. Lukashenka has been in power in the Eastern European nation since 1994, and has been accused of suppressing dissent and political opposition and limiting human rights, with the economic support and implicit protective assurances of Russia. Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, the authority under which the sanctions were imposed, these measures have to be renewed annually, and have been for over a decade by now three presidents.
Who It Will Affect: This action maintains an established course of US action towards one of the world's lesser-known authoritarian states.
H.R.366: DHS Stop Asset and Vehicle Excess (SAVE) Act
What It Will Do: The this is in large part a reaction to a 2015 report by the DHS's Inspector General finding that the Federal Protective Services unit of the department had radically mismanaged its transit fleet—in other words stocking more cars than it had agents and over-authorizing use. This misuse had cost taxpayers $2.5 million in waste in the 2014 fiscal year alone. So this act puts management of the DHS transit fleet in the hands of the department's under secretary for management, who will hopefully bring things under control. The Government Accountability Office is tasked with reporting on the under secretary's automation and data collection efforts and on any security concerns about the fleet.
Who It Will Affect: Ideally this will cut down on waste in the second-largest civilian vehicle fleet in the federal government. It's an uncontroversial good governance idea that garnered considerable bipartisan support.
H.R.375: To Designate the Federal Building and United States Courthouse Located at 718 Church Street in Nashville, Tennessee, as the "Fred D. Thompson Federal Building and United States Courthouse"
What It Will Do: Exactly and exclusively what it says on the tin.
Who It Will Affect: Fans of Thompson will appreciate this move. A bizarre and impressive Tennessean, Thompson helped to uncover President Richard Nixon's secret Oval Office recordings for the Senate Watergate Committee, then broke into acting before running in 1994 for the Senate seat Tennessean Al Gore left vacant when he became vice president. In 2002, he left the Senate for a role as Arthur Branch, a Manhattan district attorney, on Law and Order before making a failed bid for the Republican presidential candidacy in 2008. He died of a recurrence of lymphoma in 2015, so this is a timely memorial.
S.583: American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This bill amends the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act to allow certain federal grant dollars for law enforcement agencies to be utilized to reach out to, hire, and retain military veterans as law enforcement officials.
Who It Will Affect: This is an utterly uncontroversial bill. It will earn some accolades for those who support opportunities for vets—which is to say just about every American—and find few detractors, if any.
S.419: Public Safety Officers' Benefits Improvement Act of 2017
What It Will Do: This act seeks to improve the efficiency and transparency of the process by which cops or their families obtain benefits for their education or for deaths or disabilities suffered in the line of duty. Although this process aims to resolve pending claims within a year, it reportedly fails to meet that deadline in over half of all cases, has gotten worse at hitting its targets over recent years, and has dozens of claims related to 9/11-related service hanging in limbo. Accordingly, the act modifies the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act to require that claims processors give heavy weight to evidence in favor of a claim form officers or agencies and ensure that they do full due diligence before neglecting any claims. It also requires that, within 30 days, the agency responsible for processing claims should start posing them (with anonymous ID tags) onto its website, updating the status of claims weekly. In 180 days, the agency is required to post a report to its website on the number of claims it has resolved over that period of time and to justify delays in resolving pending claims; a new version of this report must be posted online every 180 days. It also mandates that within two years the comptroller general of the United States should review some aspects of how the bureau manages its money.
Who It Will Affect: This is another bipartisan measure for which you'd be hard pressed to find an opponent. Few Americans will readily oppose ostensibly cost-neutral transparency or efforts to get benefits to those who have served their communities faster.
Presidential Memorandum 30: For The Secretary of State [Regarding The Suspension of Limitations under the Jerusalem Embassy Act]
What It Will Do: In 1995 Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, seeking to force the president to move America's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by 1999; if this was not done, the building budget for the State Department would automatically be chopped in half. The controversy comes from the fact that Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, though its control of the eastern half of the city, seized during the Six-Day War of 1967, is highly contested. Palestine claims eastern Jerusalem as its own capital. As such, while some nations recognize Western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, few have acknowledged the nation's overall claim and many keep their diplomatic services in Tel Aviv to avoid the perception of implicitly supporting Israel's claim to the whole city.
Given the tense geopolitical situation, the Jerusalem Embassy Act has never been enacted. Even presidents who have voiced support for the move, like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have repeatedly used a clause in the Act allowing them to delay the move past 1999 for six months with no repercussions to avoid the risks associated with the potential shift. This memorandum is just Trump continuing that delayed implementation. The text of the memorandum reaffirms his administration's commitment to moving the embassy eventually, and the decision to make the shift will roll around by December 1, 2017, requiring another yes-or-no memorandum.
Who It Will Affect: Given that Trump campaigned on moving the US embassy to Jerusalem particularly hard in 2016, his decision to shirk his first blatant opportunity to do so will irk some of his more pro-Israel supporters. This and his reticence to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel while in the country on his first foreign trip will also displease hardliners within Israel, although government officials there have mostly shrugged the move off. Some may choose to read this as a sign that Trump and his team have recognized the tricky politics of moving the embassy and are moving with caution to find a way of making the complex local politics work.
Presidential Proclamation 52: [Proclaiming] June 2017 As National Homeownership Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 2002, this proclamation recognizes the role of homeownership in the American Dream and the value of having a home as a source of wealth, security, and independence. Trump's text recognizes the recent dip in homeownership rates in the US (down to 63.6 percent of adults at the start of this year from 69.1 percent in 2005, at the height of the housing market). He claims that his administration will help more Americans fulfill their dreams of owning homes.
Who It Will Affect: Aspiring homeowners may appreciate the sentiments contained within Trump's proclamation. And they can make use of the resources and guidance events various government agencies and housing-related organizations provide throughout the month. But housing market analysts have long been dubious about just how much of a priority housing is for the Trump administration, and whether his economic policies would have a positive impact most homeowners and homeownership.
Presidential Proclamation 51: [Proclaiming] June 2017 As National Ocean Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 2007, this proclamation recognizes the importance of America's massive expanse of territorial waters, stretching 200 nautical miles off the US coast in any direction. Recent presidents have used this occasion to talk about the importance of environmentalism and oceanic stewardship to the sustainability of nature and our nation's ocean-based resources. But Trump's text pays only passing lip service to that idea and instead recasts National Ocean Month as a time to recognize the untapped energy sector potential of underwater assets and promote resource extraction. (His administration has already begun the process of trying to open up protected marine ecosystems to resource extraction, although doing so may not be easy or make economic sense.) He also hints that we should be fishing our oceans more aggressively to close a trade deficit in the amount of seafood we import.
Who It Will Affect: Although this shift in tone will further hearten those in the energy sector, it will only reinforce the terror and trepidation many others feel about Trump's disregard for the environment as anything but a resource to be mercilessly tapped until it is spent.
Presidential Proclamation 50: [Proclaiming] June 2017 As African-American Music Appreciation Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1979, this proclamation recognizes the role African Americans have played in originating or shaping just about every form of American music, from rock to jazz to gospel to rap. Trump's text plays this proclamation by the numbers, recognizing the pioneering Chuck Berry, who died this March, and Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, who both would have been 100 had they lived to this year.
Who It Will Affect: This proclamation is always an appreciable moment of recognition, given how frequently the African American origins or histories of various forms of American art are erased in popular dialogue. However given Trump's seeming ignorance of black history and the fairly truncated and dispassionate nature of this text, you'd be forgiven for being a bit skeptical about how seriously this administration takes this recognition.
Presidential Proclamation 49: [Proclaiming] June 2017 As National Caribbean-American Heritage Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 2006, this proclamation recognizes the longstanding close ties between America and various nations and cultures in the Caribbean and the contributions Caribbean peoples have made to American history. Trump's text plays belatedly to the zeitgeist by noting that the founding father and musical subject Alexander Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis, but offers no other specific recognitions.
Who It Will Affect: Trump's lackluster order really just goes through the motions, and so will likely do little for those interested in these cultural ties and intercultural histories. But celebrations will be held across the nation throughout the month for those who want to observe.
Presidential Proclamation 48: [Proclaiming] June 2017 As Great Outdoors Month
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 2004, this proclamation urges Americans to take the summer to go out and explore nature. Trump name-drops a few state parks across the country where people can camp, fish, or bike. He also claims that his team is working hard to improve America's outdoor venues by reforming public lands management and by working to clear maintenance backlogs in federal parks and other outdoor monuments.
Who It Will Affect: In theory, this sentiment is utterly uncontroversial. However outdoor sporting and recreation buffs tend to be skeptical of the Trump administration's sentiments on the great outdoors. Trump has approved an act of Congress and instituted an executive order that will make it harder to manage natural resources on ecosystem levels, instead favoring plans based on artificial state borders, and he has aggressively pursued the reduction or elimination of national monuments and expansion of resource extraction on federal lands.
S.Con.Res.14: A Concurrent Resolution Authorizing the Use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for an Event to Celebrate the Birthday of King Kamehameha I
What It Will Do: Exactly what it says. Kamehameha Day, on June 11, is an annual tradition in Hawaii that celebrates the birth of the 19th-century founder of an independent Hawaiian state. It has also been celebrated in Emancipation Hall, where a massive statue of the Hawaiian king was moved almost ten years ago, every on that day every year in recent years. So this is routine stuff.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone in DC and wishing to celebrate Kamehameha Day will likely appreciate the fulfillment of this routine duty.
Presidential Proclamation 47: [Proclaiming] Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, as a Day of Prayer for Permanent Peace
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1950, this proclamation urges Americans to spend a moment on Memorial Day collectively praying (or imploring in whatever way we deem fit) for global peace to end bloodshed that needs memorializing.
Who It Will Affect: Trump's text calls for a moment of prayer at 11 AM and a national moment of remembrance at 3 PM, both in whatever your local time is. It also calls upon Americans to display the national flag, decorate graves, and attend the commemorative parades that are the staples of Memorial Day.
Presidential Proclamation 46: [Proclaiming] May 21 through May 27, 2017, as Emergency Medical Services Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty since 1974, this proclamation urges Americans to recognize and respect the work of EMS personnel in helping to mitigate natural disasters and saving lives. Trump touts the existence of an ongoing project, EMS Agenda 2050, by which the federal government is working with the EMS community to help them meet the needs of the future and improve services to all Americans.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who wants to show their appreciation for EMS personnel can attend one of the many recognition events held around the nation by EMS-related groups. That will surely be appreciated by EMS workers, and rather uncontroversial all around.
Presidential Proclamation 45: [Proclaiming] May 21 through 27, 2017, as National Safe Boating Week
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty since 1958, this proclamation urges Americans to heed boating safety if they choose to go out on the water this summer. Trump cites Coast Guard statistics pointing out that 70 percent of boating accidents are caused preventable human error and 80 percent of fatalities could have been prevented by basic preparedness like wearing a life jacket.
Who It Will Affect: This is a rare proclamation with actual instructions for potential observers of this week. Trump notes that the Coast Guard and local governmental authorities will hold safe boating events throughout the week; he also points out a number of broad safety measures those on the water should be taking. That'll be appreciated by the boating community of America, but have little effect beyond that circle.
Presidential Proclamation 44: [Proclaiming] May 21 through May 27, 2017, as World Trade Week
What It Will Do: Another annual presidential duty, in this proclamation Trump makes some perfunctory statements about the value of free trade and open markets and their importance to the American economy overall. He then pivots to his standard trade talking points, claiming that free trade ought to also be fair and touting his administration's dedication to root out trade cheating and eliminate trade imbalances between the US and other nations.
Who It Will Affect: This proclamation may strike many free trade proponents as odd coming from Trump, whose sometimes fringe views on what makes for good trade and how it affects the economy may well threaten numerous free trade deals. But for those willing to look past this, major US cities will observe this week with events boosting their local trade environments.
Presidential Proclamation 43: [Proclaiming] May 22, 2017, as National Maritime Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1933, this proclamation recognizes the continuing importance of America's Merchant Marine force to the security of the nation.
Who It Will Affect: Those inclined to observe this commemoration can attend a number of government and maritime industry celebrations across the country.
Presidential Proclamation 42: [Proclaiming] The Third Saturday of Each May as Armed Forces Day
What It Will Do: An annual presidential duty dating back to 1950 (although Trump's wording makes it seem as if he is creating a new tradition), this proclamation recognizes the contributions those in America's armed forces have made to the history and make to the continuing stability and safety of the nation. Trump's text explicitly notes the need to upgrade many service members' supplies and touts his attempts to score $54 billion more in defense spending in his proposed 2018 budget.
Who It Will Affect: Whether or not Trump's oft stated love of America's armed forces comes to anything substantial remains to be seen. In any case, government officials and local communities all across the nation will express their thanks to these service people on this day, and that will likely be appreciated by them.
Presidential Memorandum 29: For the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Treasury, and the Secretary of Energy
What It Will Do: The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act included a section threatening sanctions against the banks of any company that refused to reduce their consumption of Iranian oil, threatening their assets to put new economic pressures on our old enemy Iran. But as part of the 2015 deal in which Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear program for the lifting of certain sanctions, the US agreed to waive these restrictions so long as Iran keeps up its end of the bargain. This waiver has to be re-issued every 120 days, and was last renewed by Barack Obama before he left office in mid-January. This memorandum is just Trump choosing to renew that waiver, continuing a key bit of Obama's détente with Iran for at least another four months.
Who It Will Affect: Taken on its own, this may seem like a sign that Trump has moderated his stance on the Iran nuclear deal, which he decried and talked about scrapping on the campaign trail. However, Trump paired this move with new sanctions on individuals and companies linked to Iran's ballistic missile program, which is not banned but discouraged by the 2015 deal. (Iran responded with its own symbolic sanctions on Americans already forbidden by US law from doing business with the country.) Trump's State Department also speeded up the issuance of an annual report chastising Iran for human rights abuses, and the president's outreach to Middle Eastern allies is seen by some observers as a bid to develop an anti-Iranian coalition. Those moves may signal a shift in US-Iranian relations toward the hawkish.
H.J.Res.66: Disapproving the Rule Submitted by the Department of Labor Related to Savings Arrangements Established by States for Non-Governmental Employees
What It Will Do: Another application of the Congressional Review Act, this measure nullifies a late Obama-era rule that would have made it easier for states to develop retirement plans for some of the 55 million or so American workers who do not have such plans through an employer. Although proposed state retirement plans differ in form, they generally aim to automatically take a chunk out of workers' paychecks and put it into state-managed retirement savings accounts; workers have the option of opting out of these schemes. Although the rule was not necessary for the development of these plans, it exempted them from certain federal regulations (so long as they met certain requirements) that could impose significant compliance costs on states. This measure follows up on a previous use of the CRA, signed into force on April 13, that killed a rule making it easier for cities and counties to develop such plans for their workers.
Who It Will Affect: The revocation of this rule throws plans that were already in development in seven states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington) into question. It may also chill plans in around two dozen other states to develop schemes of their own in the near future. Oregon and California, the furthest along of any states in developing programs, set to launch in 2017 and 2019 respectively, have indicated they will move forward no matter what new regulations they must comply with, but other states may be deterred. As none of these plans were in force yet, the rule's revocation will not rob anyone of retirement savings, but it does restrict what proponents saw as a major tool for increasing the financial security of workers. Mutual funds will celebrate this move, since they want people to invest in their products, not government-sponsored retirement funds.
H.R.247: Modernizing Government Travel Act
What It Will Do: This orders the Government Services Administration to craft new regulations that will allow federal employees to file for reimbursement when they use "innovative mobile technology" services like Lyft and Uber—but also app-assisted bike-sharing services—to travel for work. The Administrative Office of the United States Courts is instructed to do the same for judicial branch employees. The regulations should not allow reimbursements for travel in privately organized and not-for-profit car- or vanpool situations.
Who It Will Affect: This bipartisan legislation basically finally allows government employees to get reimbursed for the same kind of work transit their private sector peers already regularly use; a January report revealed that Uber now accounts for the majority of all American business transit vendor expenses. Proponents of the bill argue that it will make the government a more attractive employer for job candidates (by bringing it up to speed with at least one private sector tech norm) and will, by allowing reimbursement for on average cheaper services, ultimately save taxpayer dollars.
Presidential Memorandum 28: Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Stabilization of Iraq
What It Will Do: This action extends an action originally initiated by George W. Bush in 2003, and modified once later that year, twice in 2004, and in 2007 and 2014 each. The provisions of these actions were pretty esoteric, but in total they roughly try to provide some financial and legal protections to the Iraqi government and certain assets in the country while trying to prevent funds from going to destabilizing elements within the country. The basic idea being that it is in the interest of America's national security to do what it can to facilitate the reconstruction and development of institutional capacity in Iraq by legal and economic means.
Who It Will Affect: This is just an annual continuation of existing federal policy, so just maintains certain elements of the status quo.
Presidential Proclamation 41: [Proclaiming] May 15, 2017, As Peace Officers Memorial Day and May 14 through May 20, 2017, As Police Week
What It Will Do: Proclaiming this day and week has been an annual presidential duty since 1962. Trump's text carries out the usual task of honoring those officers who were killed, died, or became disabled in the line of service. Drawing on recently released provisional FBI numbers, he notes that 118 police officers died while on duty last year, 66 in malicious attacks, which represents a marked increase over FBI numbers from 2015. Trump uses this as evidence of a real and growing threat to law enforcement officials and pats himself on the back for his February 9 executive order calling for the development of new measures to better defend officers from harm and harsher federal sentences for those who attack them. He also notes that his administration will support job safety programs and work to improve the efficiency of benefits claims processing for law officers.
Who It Will Affect: Like similar proclamations assigning special statuses to various days and weeks, this doesn't really do anything in particular.
Presidential Proclamation 40: [Proclaiming] Friday, May, 2017, As National Defense Transportation Day and May 14 through May 20, 2017, As National Transportation Week
What It Will Do: Proclaiming these national commemorations has been an annual presidential duty since 1957 and 1962, respectively. Trump's text contains the usual rote acknowledgements of the vital role infrastructure and the workers who maintain it plays in everyday American lives. He also focuses on infrastructure as a military preparedness and national security concern. And he dwells on the disrepair of the nation's infrastructure, and his administration's long-promised but yet-to-be-issued $1 trillion infrastructure development plan as a signal that his team is uniquely concerned with and devoted to address this national conundrum.
Who It Will Affect: Trump's text acknowledges and directs focus to a real issue: The American Society of Civil Engineers this year rated the nation's infrastructure at a D-plus level overall. Infrastructure repair and development is one of the more unifying bipartisan issues across the nation, so this focus could theoretically help politicians bridge ideological gaps. But highlighting this issue also draws focus to the fact that team Trump has been a few weeks away from issuing a comprehensive infrastructure plan for almost a year.
For More: What does it mean that Trump's infrastructure program might rely on "public-private partnerships"?
Presidential Proclamation 39: [Proclaiming] May 14, 2017, As Mother's Day
What It Will Do: This is a perfunctory annual proclamation, dating back to 1914, in which the president recognizes and commemorates Mother's Day.
Who It Will Affect: Your mother, if you remembered to call her this year.
Presidential Proclamation 38: [Proclaiming] May 12, 2017, As Military Spouse Day
What It Will Do: This perfunctory annual presidential proclamation dates back to 1984. It seeks to honor the sacrifices made and support offered by military spouses. Trump's text swears to dedicate his administration to increasing the resources and opportunities available to these individuals, who often find themselves dislocated or suddenly left alone due to their partner's career. Trump specifically urges businesses to create opportunities for these military spouses to find work wherever they go, and keep them employed after relocations.
Who It Will Affect: This is always an appreciable show of respect and recognition, with events hosted by military organizations wherever spouses are found, including some informing them about resources or helping them to find employment. If Trump keeps to his word, his policy of seeking to improve these resources and opportunities will be appreciable as well.
S. 496: A Bill to Repeal the Rule Issued by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration Entitled "Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform"
What It Will Do: This is yet another revocation of a late Obama-era rule, this one issued in December. However it was oddly enough advanced via a regular bill rather than a joint resolution a la the provisions of the Congressional Review Act. Regardless, it nullifies the rule mentioned in its title, which aimed to redefine the way entities managing urban planning (and especially transit corridors and provisions) between municipalities were to be delineated and managed.
Who It Will Affect: The rule in question sought, essentially, to merge down planning zones where possible for more coordinated and centralized transit planning. However politicians throughout the country and overwhelmingly across aisles saw the rule as an overreach on legal statutes that ultimately made it harder for localities to plan nimbly with local conditions in mind. As such this was an incredibly bipartisan rule revocation aimed at restoring local and situational control over transit planning and reducing costs that would have been imposed by new regime.
Executive Order 34: Establishment of [a] Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity
What It Will Do: This order creates a commission chaired by Vice President Mike Pence that will review voter registration and voting processes in federal elections and issue a report to the president identifying how to enhance Americans' confidence in elections and make recommendations to deter improper or fraudulent voter registration or voting. No deadline for this report is provided in the order, but the commission will dissolve 30 days after it is issued. Who It Will Affect: This is Trump making good on a Twitter promise to to investigate voter fraud after he faced criticism over wholly unfounded claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election against him and for Hillary Clinton, costing him the popular vote. Basically, it's an investigation designed to justify his wild claim, even though numerous studies—even those by experts Trump has tried to cite to justify himself—have rejected the notion that voter fraud is an issue of any substance in America. Even Trump's own lawyers in a recount of ballots from the 2016 presidential election in Michigan admitted they saw no evidence of fraud or mistakes.
Team Trump reportedly planned to make this order palatable to critics by empowering it to investigate policies that suppress votes, a cause of deep concern for Democrats, since these policies tend to target minority or low-income citizens.
But voter suppression didn't show up in the order, which focuses wholly on elevating concerns about fraud. What's more, Vice President Mike Pence, while still the governor of Indiana, oversaw a witch hunt last October in which tens of thousands of minority voter registration forms were seized from a registration drive organization on the belief that maybe ten were fraudulent—a case which has yielded no prosecutions to date. And team Trump has selected Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as the commission's vice chair. Kobach has been one of the loudest voices support Trump's claims about massive national voter fraud. He built some of some of the nation's most draconian anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant screening policies and pushed for strict laws in Kansas requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. (These laws have led to one in seven Kansans seeing their registration suspended by the state on technicalities and have been challenged in the courts for potentially disadvantaging minorities.) Kobach has also pursued illegal voting cases in Kansas with such single-minded conviction of their threat that a local paper of record recently referred to him as the Javert of Voter Fraud.
For More: Why you should worry about Trump's voter fraud probe
Executive Order 33: Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure
What It Will Do: This order recognizes the federal government's well-established problematic reliance on outdated and at times poorly defended IT resources. It mandates federal agencies now use the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity as a guideline for managing technological vulnerability risks. It also makes federal agency heads accountable to the president for instituting effective risk management policies and establishes an administrative priority to move the entire federal government toward the use of one centralized IT network. Beyond that, it mostly orders 12 new reports and studies to figure out how to generally make digital technology safer for government employees and the American people.
Who It Will Affect: Tech wonks (and the general public) have been waiting for the Trump administration's big cybersecurity mission statement since January, when he first intended to sign an earlier version of this order, then failed to do so for unknown reasons. Trump later missed a self-imposed day 90 deadline to develop a plan against hacking, and a day 100 plan to sign an updated draft of this order, which was apparently similar to the final product. These mysterious delays, as well as Trump's self-established technological ignorance and poor personal cybersecurity preparedness, sent worrying signals that this administration for all its campaign rhetoric might neglect cybersecurity issues.
In that context, most observers rejoiced at this executive order. Although it does little more than acknowledge well-known problems, make some incremental policy steps, and set a tone for potential future action, it mostly hit the mark. This is the Trump administration—competent baby steps and an embrace of tactics respected by experts represents an unusual competence.
H.R.534: US Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act
What It Will Do: Many years go, world fairs and expos were a big deal in America; shindigs like the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and New York World's Fairs of 1939 and 1964 were epoch-defining moments of national pride and futurist ambition. Despite the historic power of these fairs to boost a city's prestige and goose up its economy, though, after the 1984 New Orleans World's Fair suffered poor attendance, declared bankruptcy, and had to depend on government funding to complete its six-month run, America lost interest in these gaudy affairs. In 1994, Congress banned further federal spending on these events. Later that decade, the country stopped paying annual dues to the Bureau International des Expositions, the global world fair organizing body. By 2001, the US officially withdrew from the body. This hasn't stopped American cities for bidding to host world fairs, but it has made it institutionally harder for the BIE to accept those bids and for cities to raise attention to or cash for their attempts. It has also made it harder for American delegations to make a good showing at fairs and expos abroad.
This bill reverses course, arguing that these fairs and expos can significantly boost the economy of hosting regions, inspire American innovation, and promote our nation's exports. (As with other major events, like the Olympics, there's significant debate about the economic implications of hosting these sorts of shindigs.) Accordingly it instructs the Department of State to rejoin the BIE, and authorizes the department to take private contributions to make that happen; it's unclear if State will need to raise these funds annually to pay the BIE's $30,000 dues. The bill explicitly notes, though, that State cannot spend US taxpayer dollars to build expos or put US pavilions up at expos abroad. State is also prohibited from raising money on behalf of efforts to build expos or pavilions
Who It Will Affect: People and cities who have pined for World Fairs coming back to America will rejoice. However, the restrictions on spending may handicap American attempts to host a fair.
Presidential Proclamation 37: [Proclaiming] May 7 through May 13, 2017 as Public Service Recognition Week
What It Will Do: This perfunctory annual presidential proclamation dates back to 1985 and was designed to honor the work of civil servants of all stripes. Trump makes brief lip service to that idea, but then his text veers into self-praise for his March 13 executive order calling for federal reorganization geared towards increasing governmental efficiency.
Who It Will Affect: Every year, the Public Employees Roundtable organizes events alongside city and state officials around the nation for citizens to honor their civil servants, which many in the public sector will appreciate and anyone choosing to observe this week can join in on. However Trump's mention of his executive order just highlights the uncertainty his regime has created for civil servants.
Presidential Proclamation 36: [Proclaiming] May 7 through May 13, 2017, as National Hurricane Preparedness Week
What It Will Do: Presidents have made this perfunctory proclamation annually since 2004, when National Hurricane Preparedness Week replaced National Hurricane Awareness Week. (Because "awareness" does not equal "preparedness"!) Trump's text simply reminds Americans living in hurricane-prone areas to ready their homes, communities, and families for possible extreme weather events between June 1 and November 30: hurricane season. It notes that the National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency made numerous tools available during this week that the public may consult in the service of that preparation.
Who It Will Affect: The government resources and events that come along with this week will be useful to many living on or near stormy coasts as well. However, given the connection scientists have outlined between climate change and increased hurricane intensity (if not also frequency), this week may also remind some people that the Trump administration's astounding hostility to climate change research and mitigation efforts may eventually contribute to increasing the difficulty of hurricane preparedness.
Presidential Memorandum 27: A Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate
What It Will Do: This action just fulfills a procedural formality mandated by the 1985 Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act. Under that law, the president has to specifically designate that the money in a spending bill allocated for Overseas Contingency Operations, an uncapped Pentagon war-fighting fund currently being used to combat ISIS and other terror groups around the world, shall be transmitted to that fund. So this is just Trump telling Congress that the $76 billion allocated to those ends in the spending bill is going to that fund.
H.R.244: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017
What It Will Do: This is the long-awaited and contentious bill that will fund the US government until the current fiscal year ends on September 30. It's a behemoth omnibus bill, encompassing 11 unresolved appropriations actions (as well as a program to incentivize hiring military veterans, see H.Con.Res.53 for more on that rider), measuring in at 1,665 pages long. In total, it appropriates $1.16 trillion.
The top-line takeaway is that the bill fell far short of Trump's requests for funding and budget cuts: It only authorizes a $15 billion boost in military spending, not $30 billion as the White House had requested, and $1.5 billion for more border security—which doesn't include any funding for a border wall. The bill also increases funding for NASA, the National Institutes of Health, foreign aid, and clean energy science, all areas where Trump has asked for cuts. (The bill does exclude funding for the United Nations-backed Green Climate Fund and cut general UN funding, though.) The bill does not contain appropriations for deportation forces, and doesn't defund Planned Parenthood or take away federal money from "sanctuary cities." It makes cuts to the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Labor, and State, and to the Environmental Protection Agency—but only on the order of a couple percent or less, not 10 to 30 percent as Trump had advocated.
Who It Will Affect: Overall, this was a fairly status quo spending bill, not unlike something that would have come out under the Obama administration. Accordingly, Democrats have declared it a victory, claiming they were able to prevent over 160 "poison pills," thwart the Trump agenda (about which many Republicans weren't too hyped either), and score cash for their priorities, like aid to Puerto Rico. Republicans have been forced to try to hype up their modest military spending and border security increases as if they are huge wins.
Understandably, Trump and those Republicans who back elements of his agenda seem to feel pretty testy about this lukewarm bill, especially since it's the new White House's first major piece of legislation. Trump has clearly indicated that he'll be ready to gear up for a bigger fight when negotiations for the 2018 budget begin.
H.Con.Res.53: Providing for a Correction in the Enrollment of HR 244
What It Will Do: This action overhauled HR 244, a tiny bill ordering the Secretary of Labor to create an awards system to recognize businesses that hire and support military veterans. The bill had already passed through both houses of Congress, so it was an ideal vessel to (by the force of this resolution) transform into the 2017 spending bill, allowing that massive piece of legislation to land on Trump's desk in time to avoid a government shutdown. This action didn't eliminate the "Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) Vets Medallion Program" originally outlined in the bill. It just pastes in the entire budget before that program comes up, and renames the bill to reflect that it is now the "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017."
Who It Will Affect: This parliamentary maneuvering doesn't hurt or hinder anyone backing the veteran-hiring incentive system HR 244 originally outlined. It may have actually accelerated its enactment by tying it to a must-pass spending bill. So ultimately this tinkering just helped the government to avoid a shutdown at the end of May 5.
Executive Order 32: Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty
What It Will Do: This order encourages every federal agency to find as many ways as legally possible to protect the rights of the religious. It specifically orders the Department of Treasury (read, the Internal Revenue Service) not to punish religious institutions for speaking on moral or political issues. (The 1954 Johnson Amendment generally prohibits tax-exempt nonprofits from campaigning, endorsing, or raising funds for particular candidates or initiatives.) Treasury is also ordered, in conjunction with the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, to consider amending Affordable Care Act–linked regulations to address religious-based objections to requirements that employer-provided insurance cover certain essential health benefits. This implicitly refers to requirements for contraceptive coverage, which some religious groups oppose. Finally, the Attorney General is instructed to draft a guidance on how to interpret all religious liberty protections under existing federal laws.
Who It Will Affect: Although the Trump administration billed this order, long-awaited by its conservative backers, as a fundamental shift in policy, it doesn't actually do much. The Johnson Amendment, whose framework gives religious actors leeway to speak about political issues in general terms, cannot be repealed in full without an act of Congress. Even before this moratorium, the law has rarely been enforced in recent years.
On healthcare, organizations can already gain a religious exemption to avoid the requirement for contraceptive coverage; religious organizations' objections are now that having to opt out is itself a form of discrimination, which is pretty small marbles. The administration may be able to institute a blanket exemption for religious nonprofits that then requires an opt-in to providing contraceptive coverage rather than an opt-out. But this may be moot if team Trump achieves its goal and repeals the Affordable Care Act altogether.
For More: Read about the lackluster response to this order.
Presidential Proclamation 34: [Proclaiming] May 4, 2017, As A National Day of Prayer What It Will Do: This is another perfunctory annual presidential action, mandated by an act of Congress since 1988. Trump's text encourages Americans to pray and meditate, and to recognize the role of faith in the history and foundation of the nation. Trump's text goes a bit above and beyond the usual platitudes, affirming Americans' rights to pray and worship as they choose in private and public and in any type of institution.
Who It Will Affect: National Prayer Day always affords a number of special observances for those inclined towards its message to attend. It also always pisses off secularists and atheists, who see it as far too religious for a state observance; their objections have never held much water in the courts or legislature, though.
Presidential Proclamation 34: [Proclaiming] May 2017 As National Mental Health Awareness Month
What It Will Do: Another commemoration with a long history, going back to 1949, here Trump aims to recognize the millions of American citizens affected by mental health issues and their families. The proclamation acknowledges a chronic lack of treatment afforded to over half of all individuals with serious mental health problems and commits the Trump administration to improving the prevention, detection, treatment, and general awareness of these issues. However, aside from noting that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price will publicly mark National Children's Mental Health Day on May 4 to raise the profile of these issues, the text offers no real detail on how the administration will make good on these promises.
Who It Will Affect: While the administration offers only vague, limited guidance to those who wish to observe this month of recognition, many mental health organizations will host a number of events and promote resources and information on these issues throughout the month. Trump's promise of administrative care and comment to these issues will raise a few skeptical eyebrows, as the Republican healthcare reform proposal he's aggressively backed will, even after revisions, likely lower the availability of mental health care. He has also advocated slashing funding for medical research, including research into mental health conditions and treatment
For More: Why living with mental illness in rural America is so difficult
Presidential Proclamation 33: [Proclaiming] May 1, 2017, As Law Day, U.S.A.
What It Will Do: A perfunctory presidential proclamation dating back to 1958, this annual commemoration encourages Americans to acknowledge and celebrate the role of the rule of law in maintaining a democracy and the vitality of checks and balances in American governance.
Who It Will Affect: For those who wish the mark the occasion, bar associations (which helped to create this holiday in the 1950s) often hold talks and promote resources on the general subject or an annual theme. (This year's all about the importance of the 14th amendment.) However this usually innocuous and forgettable declaration will yet again cause some consternation and odd looks this year because it's coming from Trump. After a lifetime mired in legal scandals and court dodging, Trump spent his presidential campaign and a significant chunk of his first 100 days in office attacking the fairness and legitimacy of courts and judges whose rulings did not serve his political ends.
Executive Order 31: On the Establishment of the American Technology Council
What It Will Do: This order creates a council that will include over a dozen agency heads and presidential assistants and advisors, as well as additional members selected by the president or the council's director. The goal will be to develop a plan for improving the federal government's technological resources—although it seems it won't touch national security-related systems. It will be authorized to create committees, task forces, or interagency groups. The order further urges federal agencies to cooperate with the council's objectives and calls upon the director of national intelligence to share as much information with the council as possible about cyber security threats, vulnerabilities, and mitigation strategies. The council will disband on January 20, 2021.
Who It Will Affect: This is apparently one of the first products of Jared Kushner's sprawling and bizarre White House Office of American Innovation. Between this and Chris Christie's somewhat redundant committee to study the opioid crisis, it suggests that Kushner will mainly innovate by spawning further committees and councils to do something on issues that pop into his or Trump's heads. Chris Liddell, the White House's Director of Strategic Initiatives and a former chief financial officer of Microsoft, will reportedly run the council. It will also reportedly meet in June with the heads of about 20 major tech firms. Trump's hardly the first president to try to bring in Silicon Valley wonks to help update the federal tech system. Obama's US Digital Service initiative, which will have representation on the council, tried something similar to little effect.
Executive Order 30: [The] Establishment of [an] Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy
What It Will Do: This order creates a new organ in the White House, the OTMP, which will be tasked with coming up with new ways to lower America's trade deficit, protect the status of US manufacturing and workers, and generally boost economic growth.
Who It Will Affect: This is another one of Trump's more pointless, resume-padding executive orders. The administration already has several advisers dreaming up means of tackling all of these issues. Peter Navarro, who already heads the National Trade Council and espouses trade nationalism that's utterly fringe to most economists and seems not to grasp how elements of global trade work, was tapped to direct this new body. So this is really just a new bottle for the same old populist wine.
Executive Order 29: Addressing Trade Agreement Violations and Abuses
What It Will Do: This order starts by reasserting the Trump administration's largely nonsensical belief that any trade deal that might lead Americans to import more than we export is bad for jobs, the economy, and innovation. Operating on these odd convictions, this order directs the secretary of commerce to review all of America's active trade deals as well as the status of trading relations with World Trade Organization member states. Each of these reports should highlight any perceived trade abuses or harm to American jobs, innovation, or exports. They should be submitted to the president within 180 days and should include recommendations to remedy trade imbalances baked into such deals that Commerce and the USTR should begin to act upon as soon as possible.
Who It Will Affect: These studies seem at least partially redundant of the reviews of trade deals and deficits Trump ordered in his April 18 "Buy American and Hire American" and March 31 "Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits" executive orders. (Those reports in turn, as we pointed out at the time, overlap with recent reports issued by the previous administration and annual reports produced by federal bodies on the state and impact of America's trade and trade deals.) So it's tempting to read this as just more fluff issued to boost Trump's record with his supporters, who go gaga over his lofty trade proclamations, on his 100th day in office. It'll create a ton of busywork for Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who has already been tasked with a number of other reports and who now states down an analysis of dozens upon dozens of trade deals and relationships. Ross has stressed that he will not know what the impact or the implications of this review process will be until it is completed, but his strong protectionist bona fides and conviction that the World Trade Organization is a biased, overly bureaucratic, and all-around broken institution suggest that he will likely try to bully it into changing its charter rules, as well as trying to initiate renegotiations of or withdrawals from any number of trade deals.
H.Con.Res. 35: Authorizing the Use of the Capitol Grounds for the National Peace Officers Memorial Service and the National Honor Guard and Pipe Band Exhibition
What It Will Do: This authorizes the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police to hold an exhibit of their honor guards' and pipe bands' skills on May 14, and a memorial for police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty on May 15 on the grounds of the Capitol building.
Who It Will Affect: This is an annual authorization going back decades. Pretty routine.
H.Con.Res.36: Authorizing the Use of the Capitol Grounds for the Greater Washington Soap Box Derby
What It Will Do: Pretty much what it says in the title. The Capitol opens its grounds to this fun, youth-geared competition on 17 June.
Who It Will Affect: No one except for the kids in this derby and their parents.
H.J.Res.99: Making Further Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017, And for Other Purposes
What It Will Do: This measure avoided a government shutdown on April 28 by extending 2016 levels of funding to May 5, allowing Congress another week to finally work out a deal to fund the government until September 30. It also extended the federal underwriting of health benefits for coal miners, which have been challenged by the declining state of their industry. Temporary funding for these health benefits, pending a larger legislative deal, was set to expire on April 30, but was likewise extended to May 5.
Who It Will Affect: This continuing resolution kept the federal government running, which obviously matters big-league to many people. It also demonstrated the GOP's basic competence when it comes to keeping the lights on. But it was a blow to Republican ambitions as well as to the Trump agenda and a boon to Democrats' perceived power. Finally, it gives Congress more time to come up with a more long-term, comprehensive deal.
Presidential Proclamation 32: [Proclaiming] May 1, 2017, As Loyalty Day
What It Will Do: As Trump's text almost defensively asserts, declaring this holiday is an annual presidential duty dating back to the 1950s, when it was used to counter the socialist International Workers Day, also celebrated on May 1, by reaffirming national devotion to American values—like capitalism. This year's proclamation is somewhat unique, though, in moving past a basic reaffirmation of broad American values and urging Americans to show their loyalty to limited governance and to stand against terrorism.
Who It Will Affect: It's a sign of the times that this proclamation inspired a national freak-out from those unfamiliar with the usually low-key tradition and thought it was a soft slide into dictatorial obedience.
Presidential Proclamation 31: [Proclaiming] May 2017 As National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
What It Will Do: Another annual presidential proclamation dating back to 1983, this one urges Americans to recognize the value of a healthy, active lifestyle for their overall collective wellbeing. It explicitly calls for people to take the month to focus on eating healthier, getting more active, and inspiring others in their lives to do the same.
Who It Will Affect: Although this is an uncontroversial sentiment, it's hard not to see it as a little ironic coming from Trump. A technically obese man with reported cholesterol problems (which makes sense given that he apparently subsists on a diet of fast food, shitty faux gourmet fare, and steaks), he has in the past said that he exercises as rarely as possible. His main exertion seems to be cart-assisted golf. He apparently believes he can coast through life on blessed genetics. Although we've had other unhealthy presidents, compared to the exceptionally fit and health-conscious Obama, Trump seems like the last person who should be giving fitness and wellbeing advice to Americans.
For More: We made our health editor eat like Trump for a week
Presidential Proclamation 30: [Proclaiming] April 30 through May 6, 2017, As Small Business Week
What It Will Do: An annual proclamation dating back to 1963, this seeks to highlight the role small businesses play in the US economy; case in point, they account for half of all private sector jobs in the nation. Trump decided to use the text of his proclamation this year to pat himself on the back for slashing regulations, challenging trade deals, and floating tax reform, which he claims will help to aid these businesses.
Who It Will Affect: Setting aside the fact (as has been noted in this tracker before) that Trump's policies are mostly show over substance, this is an innocuous reminder to patronize local businesses.
Presidential Proclamation 29: [Proclaiming] April 30 through May 6, 2017, As National Charter Schools Week
What It Will Do: Another annual proclamation, this week seeks to recognize the power of experimental and locally accountable charter schools. Trump's text challenges the role of the federal government in setting standards for learning and calls on more funding for these schools, which he sees as a particular benefit to minority and low-income communities.
Who It Will Affect: This week gives charter schools and organizations supporting them a chance to hype themselves up. To those on both sides of the aisle who support this model of education, it's a welcome moment of recognition. But to those who think charter schools are over-hyped as a magic bullet, this commemoration can be a little grating.
Presidential Proclamation 28: [Proclaiming] May 2017 As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
What It Will Do: An annual commemoration dating back to 1977, this standard proclamation recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of citizens of Asian or Pacific Island extraction or heritage. Trump's text is fairly perfunctory, but he does name-drop the late Olympian Dr. Sammy Lee and pilot Katherine Sui Fun Cheung as two exemplars of Asian immigrant achievement.
Who It Will Affect: Usually this commemoration provides some appreciated visibility to neglected national icons and occasions some celebrations of AAPI heritage. However this is yet another presidential action that may highlight Trump's troubled relations with minority groups. Not only did Trump fare poorly amongst AAPI voters, a fast-growing electoral block, but his campaign rhetoric has been credited in part for a spike in hate speech and crimes against them in recent months and years. Six members of the White House's 14-person Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders resigned on inauguration day, and another ten resigned less than a month later, citing concerns about Trump's inaction on meeting with them about community concerns, his anti-immigrant rhetoric, and especially the perceived similarity of his (currently stalled) Muslim travel ban proposal to historic policies used to discriminate against Asian immigrants and immigration.
Presidential Proclamation 27: [Proclaiming] May 2017 As Older Americans Month
What It Will Do: Another decades-old perfunctory annual proclamation, this one honors seniors for their contributions to the nation and for their role as a link to national memories.
Presidential Proclamation 26: [Proclaiming] May 2017 as Jewish American Heritage Month
What It Will Do: An annual proclamation dating back to 2006, it highlights the long history of Jewish culture in America, a presence that predates the creation of the United States. Trump's text notes that Jewish Americans have crafted iconic characters like Captain America and songs like "God Bless America." It also name drops heavy hitters like Albert Einstein, Levi Strauss, and Mel Brooks. And it just so happens to note that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is Jewish, as is Ivanka Trump.
Presidential Proclamation 25: [Proclaiming] May 2017 As National Foster Care Month
What It Will Do: One more perfunctory proclamation, this annual observation celebrates those who open their homes to hundreds of thousands of wards of the state in need of day-to-day care.
Who It Will Affect: While Trump's text notes that America needs more support for foster parents and more homes for children, he doesn't offer much advice for how citizens can observe this month or help improve foster care. Fortunately for those who wish to mark this month, other governmental resources detail ways they can get involved in or recognize and aid the system.
Executive Order 28: Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy
What It Will Do: This order contains several distinct and fine-grained provisions, but they all boil down to a bid at opening up America's coastal areas to oil and gas drilling in the name of energy security.
First, it orders the Interior and Defense departments to review and revise the five-year plan for 2017 to 2022 governing oil and gas extraction leases in seven administrative regions in the Arctic Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico. The current plan, issued in November 2016 by the Obama administration, blocked off much of the arctic and bits of the Gulf of Mexico to lease issuances out of environmental concerns, and Trump would apparently like them open for business again. It also revokes a December executive order that withdrew a large chunk of the Arctic seas off Alaska from leasing programs indefinitely for environmental reasons and modifies the body of three memoranda that removed other bits of the continental shelf from leasing regimes such as to open them back up for exploration.
Commerce is ordered to refrain from designating new or expanding existing National Marine Sanctuaries unless Interior issues a review of the resource potential of the area in question. Various agencies are further instructed to review all National Marine Sanctuary designations or expansions from the last ten years and issue a report within 180 days with an eye to potentially reducing the size of or delisting areas seen as designated illegitimately or without a due consideration of their energy extraction potential.
A number of previsions are also made to facilitate speedy and cheap oil and gas exploration and extraction in these regions—these are fairly technical measures about reviewing and revising rules about loud noises from human underwater operations and their effect on whales, among other things.
Who It Will Affect: Trump claims this order will open a vast amount of America's resource potential up, creating thousands of jobs and improving energy and national security. It's true that the US's 1.7 billion acres of continental shelf (not all of which were closed off to resource extractors) likely contain tens of billions of gallons of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of gas resources. However, these are costly resources to locate and extract, and thanks to low energy prices industry demand for permits to explore and drill in these regions is at its lowest point since 2012. This order doesn't immediately greenlight impending developments, so it's unclear how much of the territory Trump has theoretically opened for extraction work will actually be put up for lease again. And initiating new leases will likely take years of slow legal work.
Still, this order does throw the protected status of millions of acres of underwater shelf and of at least three National Marine Sanctuaries into question in an unprecedented challenge to a previous president's lease scheme withdrawals and designations. It also threatens to weaken a host of BP disaster-inspired regulations, potentially increasing the risk of more massive oil spills in the future.
Executive Order 27: Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs
What It Will Do: This order instructs the secretary of veterans affairs to create a new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The office will assisting in disciplining or firing anyone working for the VA who is doing a particularly bad job, help to identify barriers to swift discipline or termination that need to be addressed, find ways to retain high-performing employees, and ensure that complaints against individuals or practices at the VA are resolved quickly, wrongdoings identified are corrected, and whistleblowers are protected.
Who It Will Affect: This is Trump's bid to make good on a campaign promise to increase the VA's accountability, reacting to a series of scandals starting in 2014 in which it was revealed that many veterans were not receiving timely care, that delays were being covered up, and that efforts to rectify these issues were moving slowly and haphazardly at times, which some observers have blamed, at least in part, on bad management. This is a mostly uncontroversial move. However some far that the order will end up favoring swift action over due process, opening a door for managers to override or circumvent reasonable civil service protections, perhaps at times in the service of their own grudges or vendettas in a way that may endanger would-be whistleblowers. The VA had already been instructed by Congress last year to create a Central Whistleblower Office; that office, apparently not yet created, looks as if it will be subsumed into the one ordered in this executive action.
For More: Here's what happens when the VA is your debt collector
Presidential Memorandum 26: [Regarding] Aluminum Imports and Threats to National Security
What It Will Do: This is all but a carbon copy of Presidential Memorandum 23, issued April 20, except that it calls upon the secretary of commerce to investigate whether current aluminum (rather than steel) import levels and dynamics have a notable effect on national security and what trade actions may need to be taken to rectify what the text already seems to see as a dangerously warped market. Under the 1962 law used to initiate this review, Commerce has 270 days to complete it.
Who It Will Affect: The military currently has enough aluminum for its needs. However, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross's insistence that we might not have enough aluminum for a military buildup—with which he and Trump seem obsessed—and apparent concern with the fact that the US only has one high-end aerospace-worthy aluminum smelter left suggest the review will likely find some excuse to take action.
While as with the steel review Ross insists this review will not target any single country, it seems aimed at China; since 2000, China has gone from supplying 11 to 53 percent of the world's aluminum while the US share of the global market declined from 16 to 2 percent. China is not the top aluminum exporter to America—Canada exports six times as much of the substance to us as China, which also lags behind Russia and the United Arab Emirates. But accusations that China "dumps" aluminum around the world at sub-market prices lead some observers to believe it is distorting international markets and causing declining production in and Canadian exports to the US.
American aluminum companies' stocks rallied by a few points in anticipation of protectionism to come. However any protectionist measures could hurt the 161,000 individuals employed in jobs that rely on affordable aluminum imports. And trade policy wonks worry that any unduly extreme trade restrictions could trigger aluminum exporters to initiate trade wars with the US.
Executive Order 26: Review of Designations under the Antiquities Act
What It Will Do: This order stems from the Republican belief that Obama and perhaps other presidents before him abused their power to designate national monuments via the 1906 American Antiquities Act. Trump and others see this practice as a land grab by the federal government that hurts the interests of local communities—and developers, potentially. (Obama designated a record 29 national monuments under the act and expanded several more.)
This order specifically instructs the secretary of the interior to review the origins of all national monuments over 100,000 acres in size designated since January 1, 1996. The idea is to make sure that these monuments aren't too large or limit usage too much. The secretary is supposed to bring a report back to the White House in 45 days on the status of Utah's Bears Ears National Monument. (This was designated by Obama on December 28 in an attempt to protect Native American heritage sites, and many Utahan politicians are eager to begin resource extraction on the land.) The full review is to be submitted to the president within 120 days.
Who It Will Affect: Aside from Utah and the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, this action could affect about two dozen monuments, mostly in Western states but also in Massachusetts and Samoa. Although a previous Interior effort scrutinized Clinton-era monument designations in 2001 and found no issues, observers believe this report will likely result in recommendations for size reductions or status revocations, given the administration's coziness with business interests who want access to federal lands. (Interest groups note that tourism and recreation boosts from national monuments create jobs and bring development to communities near them.)
Any such recommendations or moves will be appreciated by Republicans philosophically vested in limiting federal control of lands or aligned with resource extraction or land usage business interests. They will be opposed by numerous conservation groups, Native American governments and organizations, and outdoor recreation lobbies.
For More: National Parks posters show us how government funding can be beautiful
Executive Order 25: Enforcing Statutory Prohibitions on Federal Control of Education
What It Will Do: This order instructs the secretary of education to review all existing rules and guidelines issued by her department within the next 300 days with an eye to revising or revoking any perceived to violate existing allowances for federal control over primary and secondary education. Going by the language of the order, this review lean toward giving power back to states and localities whenever possible.
Who It Will Affect: The full effect of this order will only reveal itself once the review is complete; even then, it's not clear how much change the administration will be able to enact. However the order is effective red meat for a Republican base that has taken a hard line against federal involvement in education policy.
Executive Order 24: Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America
What It Will Do: This order creates an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, which will be administered by the Department of Agriculture and chaired by that department's secretary. The task force will include representatives from more than 20 departments and agencies and will spend six months coming up with ways to improve life for rural America. Any recommendations are to be harmonized with Trump's January 30, February 28, and March 28 executive orders on limiting the enactment of new regulations, all of which focus on limiting government regulation and empowering resource extraction and use by private firms or individuals. The order also axes a 2011 executive order, under which Barack Obama created the White House Rural Council, a similar body.
Who It Will Affect: This order rolled out in conjunction with the confirmation of former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue as Trump's new Secretary of Agriculture. It's a flashy project for him to kick off with, and a signal to rural Americans that team Trump supposedly stands behind them. Phasing out the White House Rural Council is ostensibly just a bid at avoiding task duplication, but depending on what comes out of the new task force, it could also represent a substantive change in stylistic approach or the amount of bandwidth devoted to rural American issues. But for now, this is just another order that asks for a report.
Presidential Proclamation 24: [Proclaiming] Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust, 2017
What It Will Do: This proclamation declares the week starting April 23 as a period when the US and its citizens recognize and honor the victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution. America has been doing this every year around the time of the anniversary of the Allies' liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. The action enumerates all of the groups targeted by the Holocaust in clear detail, in language that was seemingly heavily inspired by if not basically lifted from the Holocaust Museum's "Introduction to the Holocaust" page.
Who It Will Affect: This period of remembrance is usually marked by ceremonies at locations across the country, including since 1993 an annual address by the US president. The Trump administration has seemingly placed special focus on this year's period of remembrance, and the media is paying special attention to Trump's April 22 video address and April 25 speech on the subject.
This focus stems from team Trump's miserable record when it comes to Jewish relations. On the campaign trail, Trump received support from vitriolic bigots with clear anti-Semitic views like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; some Trump supporters used anti-Semitic insults against his perceived antagonists. Trump's statement on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, failed to mention the Jewish people explicitly, inspiring consternation from Jewish groups across the nation. Trump has been criticized for not acting fast or firmly enough in response to a spate of anti-Semitic incidents across the nation. Then there was the whole fiasco when, earlier this, Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to compare Syrian President Bashar Assad to Adolf Hitler by claiming the latter had not used chemical weapons against his own people, then flubbed his way through a series of stumbling and boneheaded apologies creeping his way toward an official recognition of historic reality. If nothing else, week will give Trump a chance to prove that these mistakes were errors and not some sort of anti-Semitic worldview.
Presidential Proclamation 23: [Proclaiming] April 23 through April 29, 2017, as National Volunteer Week
What It Will Do: This has been a routine presidential proclamation, issued every year since 1974 to honor service groups and the volunteers who donate their time domestically and abroad.
Who It Will Affect: The proclamation itself has no advice on how to observe the commemorative week, save to maybe pay your respects to a volunteer or two. But many service organizations organize special events around this week; keep an eye out for those and maybe participate in a little community-minded volunteerism if you feel so inclined.
Executive Order 23: Identifying and Reducing Tax Regulatory Burdens
What It Will Do: Rehashing a Trump campaign and administration refrain that the current tax system is unnecessarily burdensome, this order initiates a Department of Treasury review, to be conducted with advice from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the Office of Management and Budget, of all tax regulations issued or initiated since the start of 2016. The review is intended to identify any regulations that create undue burdens or complexity or exceed the IRS's authority within 60 days. A report is to be submitted to the president on how to mitigate these burdens within 150 days; within another 180 days, a report on actions taken to suspend, delay, rescind, or modify these relations is to be issued if they have not all been addressed.
Who It Will Affect: Although the administration talks as if its actions on tax reform are meant to simplify returns for individuals, most of the major tax rules issued in the timeframe specified here focused on increasing regulations on multinational corporations. Specifically, this order will likely review rules that:
- Make it harder for US corporations to make deals that allow them to be treated as foreign companies to avoid US corporate income tax while keeping their headquarters and operations in the US.
- Prevent wealthy families from understating the value of their estates when a family member dies.
- Clarify the difference between business loans and equity investments by shareholders, venture capitalists, or the like.
- Restrict the way corporations can manipulate and report their income from foreign subsidies to protect earnings from US taxes.
- Define how real-estate investment trusts are taxed.
While this order has been marketed as a populist no-brainer, the result of the review will likely be policies that benefit the wealthy and large corporate interests, further contrasting Trump's for-the-people tax and finance messaging with his actions.
Presidential Memorandum 25: For the Secretary of the Treasury [Regarding the Financial Stability Oversight Council]
What It Will Do: This orders the Department of Treasury to initiate a 180-day review of the process by which the FSOC, a body created by the 2009 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, determines and designates that a financial institution is "systematically important" to the American economy—a.k.a. "too big to fail." This review will, among other things, question whether the FSOC's process is sufficiently transparent, provides due process to entities under review, or creates an expectation in institutions that the federal government will shield them from bankruptcy. It will also consider whether the FSOC's process is consistent with Trump's ninth executive order, "On Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System."
Who It Will Affect: This is yet another signal of Trump's stated dedication to challenging the Dodd-Frank fiscal regulatory regime and reasserts the administration's belief that the law may do more harm than good. This contributes to the mixed signals Trump has sent and continues to send about cracking down on Wall Street.
Presidential Memorandum 24: For the Secretary of the Treasury [Regarding the Orderly Liquidation Authority]
What It Will Do: This orders another Department of Treasury review of a Dodd-Frank creation, a system under which the Treasury can take over financial companies if they are in danger of failing and taking chunks of the broader economy with them. The order accuses this system of possibly encouraging financial risk-taking and potentially wasting taxpayer dollars on private business matters (although taxpayer funds are supposed to be recouped). Within 180 days, the Treasury is ordered to issue a report on the process, its potential costs and shortcomings, and its consistency with Trump's earlier order. The review should make recommendations on how to reform the process if needed.
Who It Will Affect: Again, this doesn't have much immediate impact but could demonstrate Trump's willingness to go after Dodd-Frank.
Presidential Memorandum 23: For the Secretary of Commerce [On Steel Imports and Threats to National Security]
What It Will Do: This initiates a Department of Commerce study to determine whether current steel import levels and dynamics have a notable effect on national security. The memorandum draws upon the Trade Enforcement Act of 1962 (TEA), which allows emergency tariffs or other trade measures to address imbalances construed as security issues. The text takes care to clearly frame American metal and manufacturing industries as vital to economic and strategic security and to show that the administration already believes global steel markets are particularly warped.
Who It Will Affect: The exact impacts of this action depend on the findings of Commerce's report and its recommendations. The 1962 TEA is a rarely utilized tool, and the last time it came into play, in 2001, a Commerce report found no security grounds on which to act against imports of iron ore and semi-finished steel products. Given that defense eats up only about 0.3 percent of America's annual steel output, chances for a strategic argument on trade actions may seem slim. But considering the disposition of the current Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross (a.k.a. "Mr. Protectionism"), who has hinted America might need more steel for a sudden military buildup or some such thing, there's a good chance that the report will initiate some substantive tariff regime. This promise of action to come, another sign of delivery on Trump's pro-rustbelt campaign pledges, almost immediately spiked up steel shares upward by up to 10 percent.
Although the administration insists this action is not specifically targeted at China, any tariffs would likely primarily target that nation's steel industry, which currently produces about half of the world's steel and supplies a quarter of the US market, in some cases with clearly artificially price-deflated materials. Trump has also indicated he might wish to use the threat of trade actions to leverage China into action against North Korea.
Issuing massive new protections against Chinese steel also would likely not bring back as many steel manufacturing jobs as hoped, many having been lost to automation and new materials and efficient techniques in the manufacturing world. It could however, by eliminating low-cost steel, have downstream negative effects on the construction and manufacturing industries, which dwarf American steel, and on consumers.
S.J. Res. 30: A Joint Resolution Providing for the Reappointment of Steve Case as a Citizen Regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution What It Will Do: This measure allows AOL co-founder and all-around techie businessman Steve Case to serve a second term on the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents. The Board was created by law in 1846 to manage the nation's premiere cultural institution and is staffed by the chief justice and vice president, three senators and House representatives each, and nine citizens nominated by the Board and approved by Congress, who meet a few times a year to make major managerial decisions. Citizen regents can serve for two consecutive terms; Case's first term began in 2011 and was set to expire on April 25, 2017.
Who It Will Affect: Minimally, anyone who interacts with the Smithsonian and its ventures. Mostly, Steve Case.
S.J. Res. 35: A Joint Resolution Providing for the Appointment of Michael Govan as a Citizen Regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution What It Will Do: This measure approves of the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents' (see above) nomination of Los Angeles Country Museum of Art Director Michael Govan to replace theoretical physicist and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson as one of nine citizen regents on the Board once her second term is up on May 5, 2017, or as soon as Trump signs this resolution. Jackson has served on the Board since 2005.
Who It Will Affect: Minimally, anyone who interacts with the Smithsonian and its ventures. Mostly, Michael Govan and Shirley Ann Jackson.
S.J. Res. 36: A Joint Resolution Providing for the Appointment of Roger W. Ferguson as a Citizen Regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution What It Will Do: This measure approves of the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents' (see above) nomination of financial services executive Roger W. Ferguson to replace developer Robert P. Kogod as one of nine citizen regents on the Board once his second term is up on May 5, 2017, or as soon as Trump signs this resolution. Kogod has served on the Board since 2005.
Who It Will Affect: Minimally, anyone who interacts with the Smithsonian and its ventures. Mostly, Roger W. Ferguson and Robert P. Kogod.
H.R. 353: Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 What It Will Do: A relatively uncontroversial 65-page bill with bipartisan support, this measure outlines a host of initiatives to improve the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) meteorological services. It advances projects like developing a plan for improving weather research, issuing annual reports on weather modeling processes, exchanging technology with and potentially buying data from private sector weather services, and completing a NOAA weather satellite system. Such initiatives aim to enhance NOAA's ability to provide timely and reliable forecasts up to two or more years ahead of time and to better alert citizens of weather events—especially severe events. The act authorizes $170 million in funding for these programs.
Who It Will Affect: Pretty much everyone benefits from more accurate and long-term weather predictions, in mundane ways and profound ones—like reducing crop loss for farmers or increasing disaster preparedness for city planners. This bill was initially proposed in the last session of Congress, but failed to pass before 2017. However, that was indicative of nitty-gritty sticking points rather than any real overarching hostility. The only caveat is that, as with the NASA funding authorization act signed into law on March 21, this is a guideline for how money should be spent—a plan—rather than an appropriations bill, so it doesn't actually pony up the cash to follow through on these laudable goals.
S. 544: A Bill to Amend Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to Modify the Termination Date for the Veterans Choice Program, and for Other Purposes What It Will Do: This brief measure extends the shelf life of the Veterans Choice Program. Created in 2014, it allows veterans who live more than 40 miles from a Veterans Affairs healthcare facility, whose facilities lack certain specialists, or who have waited more than 30 days for treatment, to be matched with private providers. It was a stopgap measure intended to buy the Department of Veterans Affairs time to address chronic problems with long wait times at its own (government-run) facilities, which were stung by scandal. The stopgap measure was set to expire on August 7, but this extension will allow it to continue until its cash allotment runs out—which is expected to happen sometime early next year. The measure also contains a few provisions to improve medical record sharing, communications between the VA and private doctors, and payment protocols to the private sector, addressing issues providers and patients have raised with the Veterans Choice system.
Who It Will Affect: The measure should, for another year at least, help provide numerous veterans with care—and speed the provision of said care. That's something almost everyone can get behind. It will also give the VA more time to get its medical services house in order.
For More: America Has Been Screwing Over Its Veterans Since the Revolutionary War
Executive Order 22: Buy American and Hire American What It Will Do: This order directs all federal agencies to submit reports within 150 days assessing implementation of existing "Buy American" laws and regulations, and to develop potential new policies to maximize federal use of American materials. The order immediately specifies that waivers on buying American, which can usually be issued for substantial cost-savings to the benefit of taxpayers or difficulty of procurement in the US, should be (alongside a general review of their usage) weighed against the possibility that foreign goods are cheaper due to trade cheating. The order also instructs various federal departments to create a report on the impact of free trade agreements on "Buy American" policies; under US law, some foreign products subject to such agreements be treated as American if there is no substantive import barrier on them or their American counterparts. Within 220 days, the Commerce Department is instructed to create a final report in consultation with State, the Office of Management and Budget, and the US Trade Representative, and present it to the president. This process is to be repeated annually for at least three years—longer if Commerce wills it.
The text of the order points towards a special protective focus on American aluminum, cement, iron, and (above all else) steel. It also calls upon the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor, and State to generally review rules and guidances to ensure US workers are protected against foreign worker competition. It specifically calls for potential reforms to ensure the approximately 85,000 temporary H-1B worker visas issued each year go to the highest-skilled and –paid applicants rather than to individuals whose abilities overlap with American workers whose salaries they might undercut.
Who It Will Affect: The Trump administration claims that this order will promote economic growth and security, create jobs with fair wages, empower the middle class, and support manufacturing in America. But it actually doesn't do anything all that substantive. It just initiates a series of reviews that would at most strengthen or mildly expand existing programs over the course of years. ("Buy American" laws have been on the books since 1933. President Barack Obama even added to them in the 2009 stimulus package.) Some recommendations to increase "Buy American" compliance could prove impossible as well. After all, those related to trade agreements may require scrapping entire free trade deals. While Trump has suggested he'd do just that in the past, and did abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership before it was completed, he has seemingly moderated his stance towards limited renegotiations of other deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Some may find the order ironic, given the Trump family's use of foreign manufacturing and materials in some of its own products and reliance on foreign workers at facilities like Mar-a-Lago. That resort uses a different visa program, the H-2B regime, which receives no specific treatment in this order. But overall this is likely to prove a less-than-outrageous move, politically speaking, for an administration struggling amid repeated policy failures.
Still, the order quickly inspired criticism from construction groups and infrastructure wonks who point out that overzealously pursuing "Buy American" laws, especially on steel, could significantly inflate the cost of overhauling American infrastructure. And while many believe the H-1B visa program needs reform, if improperly handled, such changes could also limit the ability of small tech companies to obtain skilled labor to compete with tech giants, thereby limiting innovation.
For More: Trump's Government Isn't Going to Be Friendly to Legal Immigration Either
Presidential Proclamation 22: [Proclaiming] April 15 through April 23, 2017, as National Park Week
What It Will Do: Another standard presidential duty, this kicks off an annual holiday that president's observe by officially sanctioning the National Parks Service's tradition of waiving entry fees to the nation's 59 National Parks and welcoming all to partake in them freely. Trump's text hits all the boilerplate talking points of the annual commemoration, lauding the beauty of America's frontiers and the nation's history as a leader in conservation. He also claims that his administration will prioritize the protection of and public access to our natural wonders and hypes the stunt earlier this month in which he donated his first quarterly presidential paycheck to the NPS's American Battlefield Protection Program as proof of his conservation bona fides.
Who It Will Affect: As always, this is a great holiday for nature lovers, who can use it as a solid excuse to engage with the National Park system. But the sentiments involved in the holiday will strike many as especially hollow coming from Trump. Many of the bills he has signed and executive actions he has issued explicitly roll back federal environmental protections in the name of industry interests—hardly a focus on conservation. He's also proposed slashing the budget for the Department of the Interior, which oversees the parks system, by 12 percent, an amount likely to seriously damage preservation efforts. His salary donation (which subtly stressed a focus on military history over nature when it comes to preservation) was an empty, cynical stunt, offsetting just 0.005 percent of his proposed cuts. Using this proclamation to promote Trump's dedication to nature is a farce and a stark reminder that he stands in firm contrast to the history of conservation this commemoration typically seeks to recognize.
For More: A Conversation with the Rogue National Park Service Twitter Account
H.J. Res. 67: Disapproving the Rule Submitted by the Department of Labor Relating to Savings Arrangements Established by Qualified State Political Subdivisions for Non-Governmental Employees
What It Will Do: Yet another application of the Congressional Review Act, this measure eliminates a late Obama-era rule from December. This is a bit wonky, but in essence the rule aims to make it easier for cities and counties to create retirement savings programs for private-sector workers who don't receive retirement benefits from their employers. That rule was in turn an extension of another rule making it easier for states to create similar programs. (As of this writing, that state-level rule still stands.
Who It Will Affect: Republicans who backed this measure argue that it will maintain incentives for employers to provide retirement benefits, prevent confusion in the retirement services market, and keep the state out of a sector it has no business participating in. But that's little solace to the 55 million Americans who don't get a retirement account or pension through their jobs—especially the millions who were set to receive coverage in cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Seattle that were working on programs under this rule. Fortunately, many more will still likely achieve coverage through state-level plans so long as that related rule holds strong.
H.J. Res. 43: Providing for Congressional Disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of the Final Rule Submitted by Secretary of Health and Human Services Relating to Compliance with Title X Requirements by Project Recipients in Selecting Subrecipients
What It Will Do: This usage of the Congressional Review Act eliminates a late Obama-era rule, this one also from December. The rule stated that states couldn't refuse to provide Title X family planning funding—a program created in 1970 to ensure services like sexually transmitted infection screenings and contraceptives were available to low-income individuals—to any recipient unless they were not able to provide qualified care. In practice, this was an attempt to prevent states from denying Title X funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups not because of the quality of their care but because they provide abortions. (Title X money cannot be used for abortions, but over a dozen states seemingly believe abortion providers should not have access to money for other less controversial family planning services.)
Who It Will Affect: This is one of the most significant uses of the CRA by Republicans, and one of the most aggressive manifestations of their anti-abortion agenda. It's immediate effect will be to enable states to choke off funding for vital services that millions of low-income Americans rely on for non-abortion healthcare and family planning.
For More: Read about how the law treats pregnant women
Presidential Memorandum 22: Delegation of Authority under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017
What It Will Do: This action just shrugs off responsibility for a report the president's office is legally supposed to submit to Congress around this time of year. That report is intended to document known instances of Americans traveling to conflict zones in Iraq or Syria to support terrorists and note major routes of concern. This memorandum shifts the report from Trump's office to the Director of the FBI.
Who It Will Affect: This shifts some responsibility from Trump onto FBI Director James Comey. It's a slightly weird ask considering Trump's recent oblique snipes at Comey and his agency. This is also an issue Trump supposedly cares about, so distancing his office from the report seems a tad odd. But ultimately, this is a pretty minor matter.
Presidential Memorandum 21: A Letter from the President to the President of the Senate [Concerning Montenegro's Membership in NATO]
What It Will Do: This is basically the cover letter that came with Trump's Tuesday signature of a treaty providing American assent to Montenegro's bid to become the 29th member of NATO. It just reassures the Senate that Montenegro's addition to NATO will not increase America's share of military spending on the organization nor detract from its military focus or obligations outside of the NATO region.
Who It Will Affect: The mechanics of NATO don't have a huge impact on everyday American lives in peacetime. Montenegrins will be ecstatic; they've been trying to cozy up to NATO almost since the moment of their independence 11 years ago. Russia, however, will likely be a bit miffed at Trump as they've generally opposed NATO expansion into the Balkans.
For More: Read this explainer on Trump and NATO
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.
For More: Read what a Syrian asylum seeker thinks of the missile strike
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.
For More: Read Motherboard's obituary
HR 1228: T o 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.
For More: Read Motherboard's report on this bill
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.
For More: Read about how this rule will allow more of your personal data to be sold to corporations
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 goal of 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.
For More: Read VICE News's report on this law
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 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.
For More: Read about the struggles of addicts in Appalachia
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.
For More: Read about Trump's climate denialism
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 historic 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.
For More: Read more about the crisis in South Sudan
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 as this 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.
For More: Read an interview with the guy responsible for dressing astronauts
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
For More: Read about Trump's budget 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.
For More: Read about how much money the government has spent in Afghanistan
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.
For More: Read about the mixed messages Trump is sending on consumer protection.
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.
For More: Read about how the ban hurts the Iranian American community.
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 monthly reports 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 Month every 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.
Executive Order 15: To Promote Excellence and Innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
What It Will Do: Out of context, this order seems to do a lot. It establishes a White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with a director designated by Trump to work with government agencies, philanthropic organizations, educational associations, and other groups to help HBCUs. It also directs some government agencies to find ways to strengthen HBCUs and orders the formation of committee of relevant stakeholders. But most of this infrastructure was already in place under a 2010 executive order "Promoting Excellence, Innovation, and Sustainability at Historically Black Colleges and Universities," which this order nullifies and replaces. So really, this order mostly makes tweaks to some of these administrative bodies that serve HBCs. It also singles out more specific priorities, like improving educational infrastructure and stabilizing HBCU finances.
Who It Will Affect: This order falls far short of the priorities HBCUs identified in their dealings with the Trump administration in December. But it's still likely to benefit HBCUs overall. These institutions had a notoriously fraught relationship with the Obama administration, which was seen as less than optimally receptive to their needs and requests. Some individuals involved in HBCU advocacy say they have been surprised by Trump and his team's receptiveness and have high hopes. However, strong doubts remain in other corners about just what of substance will come out of these institutions under the Trump regime, especially in light of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos's botched interpretation of HBCUs' history as supporting her school choice agenda. It's worth noting that this order is clearly linked to Black History Month and is probably a relatively safe political play at improving Trump's miserable reputation in many black communities.
For more: Read about the young black Republican-leaning voters who didn't support Trump
Executive Order 14: Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the "Waters of the United States" Rule
What It Will Do: In 2015, the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency instituted a new rule adjusting the definition of waterways over which they have jurisdiction under the 1972 Clean Water Act to protect them from environmental degradation. That redefinition was based upon decisions in three Supreme Court rulings, the agencies' expert interpretations of how various waterways affect each other's health, and a lengthy consideration of public comment and stakeholder reviews. This order strikes back at that rule, requiring the Administrator of the EPA and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to review the rule and decide how to revise or revoke it—and any relevant orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies enforcing it. The order also calls for future rules and actions to use a much narrower definition of which waters can fall under federal control. This will likely significantly reduce the scope of future water control and anti-pollution measures' effects.
Who It Will Affect: The process of reviewing and revising or revoking a federal agency rule is extremely arduous, and environmental groups and other stakeholders will fight any changes tooth and nail, so it's unclear if any actual changes will result. Still, this action conveys Trump's continued hostility to environmental regulations, which his administration views as needlessly complex and anti-business.
HJ Res 40: Providing for Congressional Disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of The Rule Submitted by The Social Security Administration Relating to Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007
What It Will Do: This is the 115th Congress's third application of the Congressional Review Act, axing an Obama-era rule. That rule, phrased as a realization of the provisions of a 2007 law, essentially prohibited people who 1. receive disability payments from the Social Security Administration and 2. have been judged to need someone to handle their financial affairs because they are mentally ill or disabled from owning guns, although it also created an avenue to appeal that prohibition on a case-by-case basis.
Who It Will Affect: Functionally this just maintains the status quo—the rule wasn't in effect yet. But since the CRA limits agencies' abilities to make similar rules in the future, it will make it much more difficult to keep guns out of the hands of the severely mentally ill in the future. It's a victory for the gun rights lobby, which continues to push to make guns available to everyone with little to no restrictions, and which has inordinate sway over Congress. But it's worth noting that this rule was also opposed by some disability advocacy groups and the ACLU, who say that gun control measures targeting the mentally ill just stigmatize a vulnerable population, and that there are better ways to reduce gun violence.
For More: Read a disability advocate's take on the rule
HR 321: Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act
What It Will Do: The bill spends a fair amount of time recognizing the value of existing NASA programs aimed at mentoring girls and young women and inspiring them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It then instructs the NASA administrator to explore how to continue bringing women into STEM fields through these programs. It also instructs the administrator to issue a report to two Congressional committees within 90 days on how to develop more mentorship and engagement between K-12 STEM students and science-y folks, with special focus on how to bring retired astronauts and other experts into mentorship programs.
Who It Will Affect: Hopefully this will bolster some uncontroversial and definitively beneficial NASA programs, helping to close the persistent gender gap in STEM fields. It's not an earth-shattering law, but it's a nice symbolic move could have some real impact on the lives of young women.
For More: Read about the continued difficulties faced by women in STEM fields
HR 255: Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act
What It Will Do: The bill starts by recognizing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math professions and the low rate with which women with STEM degrees end up in STEM jobs. It then tweaks a couple bits of grammar and adds a new paragraph to the 1980 Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act to encourage entrepreneurial programs to recruit and support women and to help women with STEM training pursue careers in the commercial world and not just the laboratory.
Who It Will Affect: This bill is more an official recognition of reality and statement of the will and intent of Congress than anything with an immediate and substantive impact. Depending on how agencies choose to implement its tweaks to the SEEO Act, it could portend some real benefits in closing the nation's eternal STEM training and employment gap. But the specifics remain to be seen.
Executive Order 13: Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda
What It Will Do: This is another attack on federal regulation, building on Trump's executive order in January mandating a "one-in, two-out" rule for new regulations. This new order requires that federal agencies create a Regulatory Reform Officer (RRO) position within 60 days to make sure they are complying with other regulation-slashing measures. They should also all create Regulatory Reform Task Forces, which will usually be led by the RRO. The RRTFs are tasked with reviewing old regulations and flagging them for modification or elimination if they are deemed outmoded, ineffective, or inefficient—a task regulators are already supposed to be fulfilling but which critics claim they are being lazy about. Rules to be slated for the axe under the "one-in, two-out" rule are to be prioritized. Agencies will issue regular reports—the first within 90 days of the order—to demonstrate their progress on this matter.
Who It Will Affect: As with the one-in-two-out rule, it's possible this order could fail to achieve much of substance, since it doesn't actually mandate that regulations flagged for removal should be removed; that process is often incredibly complex and difficult in practice. Efforts to streamline regulations would probably be welcomed by observers across the political spectrum. But Trump's conviction that up to three-fourths of all regulations are bunk and his overall rhetoric, repeated during the order's signing, suggest that he hopes to use this order more like a wood chipper than a scalpel. It's yet another bold-sounding affirmation of his simplistic anti-regulation crusade; we'll see if it has an impact.
For More: Read about how Republicans are gutting rules and helping big business.
HJ Res. 38: Disapproving the Rule Submitted by the Department of the Interior Known as the Stream Protection Rule
What It Will Do: This nullifies a 2,000-plus-page December rule implemented after years of review by the Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). The rule intended to update vague language in the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest from environmental degradation due to mining by better defining degradation, more aggressively monitoring mines, and creating buffers between mining operations and forests and streams. Basically this legislation is a reversal of an environmental regulation enacted in the waning days of the Obama administration.
Who It Will Affect: If you listen to the mining industry, blocking this ruling will help to save 78,000 coal-mining jobs and up to 200,000 more related energy-industry jobs and avoid needless environmental regulations and bureaucratic bloat. If you believe the OSMRE's painstaking analyses of the rule's impact, it will expose vast tracts of wilderness to potential contamination, cost the American people millions in climate and ecological damage, and have a negligible impact on coal-mining jobs, coal prices, or industry revenues. (The coal industry is on the decline, regardless of what the government does.) On a political level, the mechanism used to nullify this rule—the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to axe recently implemented federal regulations with a simple majority vote and has only been used once before in 2001—indicates that America is in for a congressional crusade against regulations from the late Obama era.
For More: Read about environmental activists fighting the coal industry in West Virginia.
HJ Res 41: Providing for Congressional Disapproval Under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of a Rule Submitted by the Securities and Exchange Commission Relating to "Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers"
What It Will Do: This nullifies another Obama-era rule—this one issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission in July. The rule was mandated in a bipartisan amendment to Dodd-Frank, the post-financial crisis overhaul of US financial regulations, which basically demanded that US companies file reports on their deals with foreign governments for access to natural resources in an attempt detect and deter the suspicious business they've often been investigated for. Now they won't have to.
Who It Will Affect: According to the petroleum and resource-extraction industry, this will prevent a costly burden being imposed on them. According to people generally suspicious of that industry, axing that rule will make an already murky and suspect area of the economy even shadier. It also defies a trend of Western nations demanding more transparency from these companies.
For More: A guide to the ABCs of the financial industry
Executive Order 12: Providing An Order of Succession within The Department of Justice
What It Will Do: This revokes one of Obama's last executive orders, issued on January 13, which itself switched up the order of succession for the attorney general. Trump's order leaves in place the current status quo for Jeff Sessions's first few potential replacements in the event of his death, removal, or resignation: the deputy attorney general, the associate attorney general, and anyone else the attorney general should designate. But it specifies that after these individuals Sessions should be succeeded by, in this order: Dana Boente, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia (who served as acting attorney general after Trump ousted Obama appointee Sally Yates over her refusal to defend his travel ban); Zachary Fardon, the US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Tammy Dickinson, the US attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Who It Will Affect: If nothing happens to Sessions anytime soon, this won't matter at all. It may just be an extreme precaution, since Sessions's immediate successors have yet to be appointed or designated, to make sure that people Trump approves of would fill his post in case of any eventuality.
Executive Order 11: On a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety
What It Will Do: This instructs new attorney general Jeff Sessions to form a task force with the somewhat vague purpose of reducing illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime by identifying deficient policies, legislation, or crime-data resources and coming up with new initiatives. These will be presented to the president in at least one annual report.
Who It Will Affect: Right now, this just gives Sessions one more thing to do in his first days in office. It seems to mostly be a way of demonstrating how tough on crime Trump plans to be.
Executive Order 10: Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers
What It Will Do: This tells the attorney general to review existing laws regarding crimes against law enforcement and figure out how to better prosecute them. Sessions is also instructed to review and reconsider Department of Justice grants available for improving law enforcement safety and to consider new legislation on the issue, including potentially defining new violent crimes for prosecution or creating mandatory minimum sentences for existing crimes.
Who It Will Affect: Again, right now, this mostly puts some work on Sessions's plate. In the past, Trump has talked about making killing a police officer a death penalty crime, but something that radical would require Congress to pass a law. But it does show Trump wants to pursue pro-cop policies generally.
Executive Order 9: Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking
What It Will Do: This order places the attorney general, secretary of homeland security, director of national intelligence, and whoever else they deem necessary to involve in charge of the Threat Mitigation Working Group, created in 2011 by Barack Obama to identify transnational organized criminal (TOC) groups, like international drug cartels, that pose a threat to America. The group is tasked with figuring out how to improve information sharing between and support for various law enforcement and other federal agencies to better address TOC activities in the US. The order tasks them with reporting to the president within 120 days on their ideas and strategies, and once a year thereafter on their progress; they will also have to issue public reports every quarter on convictions related to TOCs.
Who It Will Affect: Yet again, this order only really immediately makes work for a few individuals in the federal government. The broader impact on society will largely depend on the ideas they generate—if any of them are substantive—months or even years out from today.
Presidential Memorandum 12: [Delaying And Investigating the Impact of] the "Fiduciary Duty Rule"
What It Will Do: Quick primer: All but a few of the financial service advisors (FSAs) in the nation are not by nature bound by fiduciary duties. That means they have to recommend you appropriate financial services, like retirement plans, but not the best ones for you. They can push products that give them the biggest commission, even if it's more expensive or less effective than other options, and they don't even need to tell you, for example, that the mutual funds they want you to invest in also give them money. A 2015 Obama administration study found that this was costing Americans $17 billion a year in unnecessary retirement account expenses. So in April 2016, the administration initiated work on the "fiduciary rule," set to go into effect this April, to bind FSAs offering 401(k) or individual retirement accounts to fiduciary duties. Naturally, some business interests disagree with this rule, saying that it will impose compliance costs on them. So they've sued to block the rule; a decision on that case is expected within the month. This memorandum instructs the Department of Labor to review it to see if it is consistent with his administration's goals. Specifically it asks the department to check whether the rule would disrupt retirement service markets or restrict Americans' access to these services. If so, the department is supposed to propose the revocation or revision of the rule.
Who It Will Affect: Since the rule wasn't even in effect yet and was already on the judicial chopping block, functionally no one. But if the Trump administration eventually strikes down this rule, financial advisors will remain free to act in ways contrary to their clients' best interests—meaning you should be very careful when dealing with people who want to manage your money.
For More: Read some bad news about how Wall Street handles retirement accounts.
Executive Order 8: On Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System
What It Will Do: Although this made a lot of splashy headlines about Trump's reported intent to dismantle core elements of 2010's Dodd-Frank Act, the Wall Street reforms designed to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial collapse, this order actually does very little. It tells the Treasury to chat with the heads of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and, within 120 days, report back on what "existing laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and recordkeeping requirements, and other Government policies" promote the administration's financial regulatory priorities, what is inhibiting them, and what might be done to better facilitate the administration's priorities. This is incredibly vague code for, "We're just taking a quick gander at what we might want to do with respect to Dodd-Frank and other financial regulations." Some of the elements of this regulatory infrastructure Trump can affect by executive action, or inaction in a failure to enforce it. Some of it he'd have to work with Congress to restructure, though.
Who It Will Affect: No matter how vague the meat of this order is, the signaled intention to cut financial regulations has led to a small spike in Wall Street stock prices. And the task will consume a fair amount of bandwidth in the Treasury Department. But the effects on the wider population will depend on just what it recommends and what Trump decides and is able to change in America's financial infrastructure. The most dramatic outcome would be Trump attempts to gut regulations and make it easier for big banks to engage in risky, self-serving behaviors, readily inviting a new 2008—which Trump's team may not think is really a risk at all.
For More: Read about how Trump's economic plan is going to benefit Wall Street.
Proclamation 4: [Proclaiming] February as American Heart Month
What It Will Do: In late 1963, a joint congressional resolution urged the president to issue an annual proclamation declaring February as American Heart Month to honor the lives lost to heart disease and resolve to improve its prevention, detection and treatment. Since then, February has been American Heart Month. For a while, February 3 has been National Wear Red Day, which is specifically to show support for women with heart disease. Trump is continuing both those traditions.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who likes that there's to be a month all about hearts.
Proclamation 3: National African American History Month, 2017 What It Will Do: This is a routine proclamation following a long presidential history of calling for the annual recognition and deeper exploration of the often-neglected contributions of African Americans to the development of America. This year, Trump name-dropped the works of Katherine Johnson, Madam C.J. Walker, and Robert Smalls—twice. He also used the order to focus on education, stressing the right of African American children like all other Americans to "quality educational opportunities."
Who It Will Affect: As with any presidential proclamation on a holiday or month of observation, this affects anyone who chooses to observe it but has little more force than that.
HR 72: GAO Access and Oversight Act of 2017
What It Will Do: A fairly uncontroversial bill, this affirms that the Government Accountability Office—the federal government's internal auditor—has the right to obtain whatever agency records it deems necessary for an investigation. To enforce this, the GAO is empowered to take civil actions against recalcitrant agencies. (It is also empowered to access databases of recent federal hires, though that may be a mostly moot point as long as Trump's federal hiring freeze is in place.) Finally, it requires that agencies planning to act on GAO recommendations submit their plans to relevant congressional committees and the GAO for review.
Who It Will Affect: This is pretty inside-baseball stuff that will mostly affect the GAO and the agencies it looks into.
Executive Order 7: Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs What It Will Do: Trump, like many Republicans, believes there is an incredible amount of redundancy, overlap, and pointlessness in federal regulations. So now whenever a federal agency (exempting the military and national security) recommends a regulation, it cannot (unless granted an exemption in case of an emergency) institute it until it has identified two relations under its purview for elimination. Notably, nothing in the language of the order guarantees that those identified regulations will actually be cut. Given how many regulations are put in place by law and the discretionary power agencies have, that makes the one-in-two-out provision arguably toothless. The order also imposes an annual cap on the cost of new regulations—for the rest of fiscal year 2017 that cap will be $0. But the order does not specify how cost will be evaluated and instead just calls for relevant agencies to figure out how to evaluate them. It does not appear, from the text of the order, that the Trump administration is willing to weigh the benefits of a regulation against its immediate costs, which may make pure cost evaluations misleading and stymie useful regulations.
Who It Will Affect: Trump claims this order will make it far easier for small businesses to open and expand. If it actually does get rid of some regulations, then that's probably true. Yet while there may well be a number of redundant or obsolete regulations that could use pruning, the flaws in this order and limitations of law may lead to a lot of busy work for agencies and roadblocks to useful regulations. Even if the order were not so squidgy and fraught, it'd still be a hacksaw approach to a scalpel issue. Mostly, the order formalizes the anti-regulation, pro-business stance of the Trump administration. It may slow regulation just by creating further logjams for federal agencies now capped at their current size and capacity.
For More: Here's How Republicans Plan to Kill Net Neutrality, Climate, and Labor Rules.
Presidential Memorandum 11: [Regarding the Development of a] Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria What It Will Do: This instructs relevant agencies to come up with a draft plan within 30 days for defeating ISIS. (So much for Trump already having that great secret plan to defeat ISIS ready to go.) It also requests the military to reconsider its rules of engagement and identify any restrictions that go beyond international law for how aggressively it might act.
Who It Will Affect: Until a plan is developed, this just sends defense and military personnel scurrying to produce some fresh documents. (Obviously, the US was already engaged in plenty of anti-ISIS operations, which will continue.) However, the language of the memorandum, combined Trump's ominous "maybe we'll have another chance" to take Iraq's oil comment a few days back, seem to indicate that he could be eyeing a much more aggressive intervention in Iraq and Syria.
For More: Watch the VICE News Tonight segment about ISIS's expansion to Afghanistan.
Presidential Memorandum 10: [Regarding the] Organization of the National Security Council and Homeland Security What It Will Do: With several esoteric tweaks to meeting structures and protocols, Trump reshuffled the internal workings of the National Security Council and Homeland Security. Wonks have described the move as mainly a reversion to the Bush-era administration with a few adjustments—notably icing out government agencies with an environmental focus. But hidden within the guts of the memorandum is a provision to give Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist (and alt-right media tycoon) Stephen Bannon seats in regular National Security Council meetings, while downgrading the status of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and director of national intelligence. Granted a regular seat at meetings by Bush and Obama, they now will only attend meetings where their "responsibilities and expertise" are relevant.
Who It Will Affect: In the short-term, this is entirely insider baseball, relevant only to officials in the agencies involved. But the elevation of Bannon, who reportedly had a major hand in drafting the first wave of executive orders, has drawn a lot of attention—as it represents another sign of his power in the Trump White House. As for what that means, only time will tell.
For More: Read about Bannon's roots in right-wing politics.
Executive Order 6: Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees What It Will Do: The order stipulates that former registered lobbyists appointed to government posts should not within two years do anything related to their old lobbying activities. Those leaving the administration should not become registered lobbyists interacting with the agencies they were once involved with for five years—and not lobby any covered executive branch official for the duration of the Trump administration. No former executive appointee can become a registered lobbyist for a foreign nation for life. No member of the administration should accept gifts from registered lobbyists. Violations can lead to further limits on future lobbying and perhaps to a lawsuit as well, as the oath is construed as contractual. Trump or anyone he designates can dispense waivers to parts of or the whole oath, though.
Who It Will Affect: The pledge in some ways expands on a 2009 Obama order, which, while using similar language on gifts and lobbying covered branches for the duration of the administration, only barred former officials from contact with their old agencies for two years and did not mention or a lifetime foreign lobbying ban. However critics have pointed out that the Obama-era rule more aggressively locked ex-lobbyists out of agencies they'd once lobbied and in some respects seems to go softer on non-Cabinet-level appointees. As in the Obama era, loopholes and waivers may lessen the impact of the order. And some speculate this will just give a jolt to the field of shadow lobbying, in which people arguably skirt the edges of what is officially considered lobbying and do not register their activities to circumvent such pledges.
Presidential Memorandum 9: Rebuilding the US Armed Forces
What It Will Do: The order instructs the Pentagon to review its capabilities and empowers Secretary of Defense James Mattis, alongside the Office of Management and Budget, to review various aspects of military readiness. It's clearly intended to be a precursor to increasing the military budget—though Congress is the branch of government in charge of the budget. It also seems to ask the Pentagon to develop a national security strategy, which is odd, experts told Defense News, because that's not usually the Pentagon's purview. (This could be another example of a poorly worded executive action.)
Who It Will Affect: The military, who may see more resources directed their way—pending congressional action—and in any case will have to figure out exactly what Trump wants them to do. If military spending does end up being increased, taxpayers will foot the bill one way or another.
For More: Read about the largest military agency you've never heard of.
Executive Order 5: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States
What It Will Do: This far-reaching order appears to be Trump's way of fulfilling his campaign promise of establishing "extreme vetting" of refugees and also temporarily halts all immigration from several Muslim-majority countries. It stops all refugee inflow for 120 days; after that, the Department of State and other government agencies will devise unspecified new and better vetting procedures for refugees. (It's worth noting that vetting for refugees is already robust.) Syrian refugees are blocked from coming to the US indefinitely because Trump believes they are "detrimental to the interests of the United States." The total number of refugees set to come to the US in 2017 is revised downward from 110,000 to 50,000. Citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sudan (and maybe Libya, Yemen and Somalia) are prohibited from entering the US for 90 days—after that, they can only come if their governments share information with the US about those prospective visitors, which some of those countries are unlikely to do for a variety of reasons. It also orders the government to "prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution," which appears to be a nod to Trump's desire to continue to bring in Christian refugees from Syria. To top it all off, it requires relevant authorities to, once every 180 days, gather and publish information on the number of foreign nationals in America who have been convicted of terroristic offenses, the number and types of gender-based acts of violence committed by foreigners in the nation, and the number of foreigners radicalized in America. The stated justification for all of this is that citizens of these countries could be potential terrorists and the Trump administration is working to prevent another 9/11—but the 9/11 terrorists were citizens of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon, which are not prevented from entering the US by this order.
Who It Will Affect: Refugees, of course, will now have to endure greater danger since they will be barred from the US at least temporarily—Syrian refugees especially are now in limbo. But regular citizens of countries like Iran who have family or friends in the US will also suffer, as they are now separated from their loved ones. In particular, many Iranians have ties to the US and have trips planned to America; the famous Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti had already announced that she was canceling her appearance at the Academy Awards even before Trump signed the order. In addition, citizens of these countries who permanently live in the US are now unsure if they can visit their homelands and then return to America. All in all, it is an immediate and sudden disruption to the lives of many thousands of ordinary people. Trump and his allies insist that this will make the US safer, but refugees have not historically been a threat to Americans—and critics say it will only encourage further terrorist attacks. The order has been widely criticized for being a "Muslim ban" by another name, and CAIR plans to sue the government in protest. Many see this perceived Islamophobia as playing into ISIS's hands, since the terrorist group will now be able to further portray the US government as being anti-Muslim—a "clash of civilizations" narrative that is also endorsed by many in the Trump administration. It remains to be seen what new vetting procedures are put in place or in what ways they will be stricter than the old ones.
U pdate : The New York Times reports that two refugees from Iraq—including a man who had worked for the US military—were detained at New York City's J.F.K. Airport. They had been on their way to America before the order was signed.
Update: After some confusion, the administration now says that this order doesn't apply to green-card holders.
For More: Read about how refugees have been placed in an impossible position.
Proclamation 2: National School Choice Week 2017 What It Will Do: Just a week after he declared his own inauguration a day of patriotism, Trump has unilaterally declared another one-off commemoration. He is inviting parents to "evaluate educational opportunities available for their children" and lawmakers to consider measures to "expand school choice for millions of additional students." Unfortunately for those who would have liked to think about this stuff, even as he declared it into existence, National School Choice Week was already almost over. It retroactively started on January 22 and runs through January 28.
Who It Will Affect: Anyone who wants to think about the cause of school choice.
For More: Read about New Orleans's experiment in charter schools.
Executive Order 4: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements (Including Advancing the Construction of a Large Physical Barrier on the Southern Border)
What It Will Do: Yes, this is the famous wall. As some have speculated for a while, the Trump administration is saying the 2006 Secure Fence Act (and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act) gives the Department of Homeland Security to build whatever infrastructure it deems necessarily to control the borders. Although Trump will need Congressional approval to fully fund the project, which will cost between $8 and $25 billion (the order calls for the creation and proposal of a firm budget), the order instructs the relevant authorities to assess what existing appropriations can be diverted to the project ASAP. It also calls for planning, designing, and building the wall to begin "immediately," and authorizes border control forces to enter federal lands—which may help them to circumvent some environmental concerns around the wall. In a kicker, Trump also instructs relevant agencies to report to him within 60 days with a breakdown of all federal aid money or assistance the government of Mexico has received from the US each year for the past five years. That could be the beginning of an attempt to force Mexico to pay for the wall, as Trump promised. More broadly, it directs relevant agencies to "deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation's southern border, to prevent illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely." That means 5,000 border patrol agents will be added, state and local law enforcement officers will be authorized to act as immigration officers, and new detention centers we be opened. It also discards the Bush and Obama era "catch-and-release" policy in favor of aggressive, pervasive, and expedited prosecution and removal. Trump promised more draconian policies on undocumented immigration; here they are.
Who It Will Affect: When construction starts on the wall,a few construction jobs could result. But the effects it will have on border communities will be far longer-lasting than that—landowners could have their property seized through eminent domain, the habitats of wildlife would be destroyed, and, of course, ladder sales will likely spike. More border officers (and deputized law enforcement officers) will likely mean more deportations of undocumented immigrants; how America's overburdened and underfunded immigration courts will hold up remains to be seen.
For More: Watch the VICE News report on how ineffective the existing border wall is.
Executive Order 3: Enabling Public Safety in the Interior of the United States What It Will Do: This instructs relevant authorities to review the streams of federal money moving toward "sanctuary cities"—municipalities that, to varying degrees, don't cooperate with immigration officials in their deportation efforts—and how those funds can be severed in a bid to force compliance with federal immigration policies. (The Secretary of Homeland Security is empowered to define sanctuary cities as he sees fit.) Weekly reports will be issued to the public listing criminal acts committed by aliens and detailing jurisdictions that ignored or "failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens." It also empowers agencies to act with as much legal force as possible to penalize and remove aliens, and eliminates the Priority Enforcement program in favor of restoring the old Secure Communities program. Relevant authorities are told to prioritize deportation of, in this order: criminal offenders, those charged with criminal offenses, those that could be charged, those who have misrepresented themselves, those who have abused public benefits programs, those who have not complied with orders for removal, or anyone else deemed a threat. That's a lot of potential deportees. The Department of Justice is instructed to provide resources for their prosecution. There's even more: It establishes an office for advocacy for the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, which will issue quarterly reports. It also calls for the collection of the immigration status of all incarcerated individuals, and indicates that the government will penalize any foreign nations if they refuse to take back citizens deported from America.
Who It Will Affect: As "sanctuary city" is an imprecise and partially informal term, it is not clear what criteria the Trump administration will use or whether any streams of federal funding will be off limits for cuts. However, at least 165 jurisdictions are likely in the defunding crosshairs; one report figured that Denver alone could stand to lose up to $175 million in federal funds if it does not comply. Individual jurisdictions will have to decide whether to give up federal money or let the feds deport undocumented immigrants, potentially breaking up families and disrupting communities. Some mayors in liberal cities have vowed their towns will remain sanctuaries and have promised to help undocumented immigrants. Beefing up internal immigration enforcement more broadly will also likely lead to a spike in deportations. This will flavor a number of impending negotiations with other nations as well—especially those soon to come with Mexico.
For More: Read about how one small town in Iowa is helping undocumented immigrants.
Presidential Memorandum 8: To Advance the Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline
What It Will Do: First proposed in 2008, the Keystone XL pipeline was supposed to more efficiently transport hundreds of thousands of barrels of Canadian oil into the United States. In November 2015, John Kerry's State Department killed the project —which had by then become a major target of protests from climate activists—deciding that it would not lead to a meaningful increase in jobs or a decrease in gas costs. But as many suspected, Trump wants to bring Keystone back. This order invites the company behind the pipeline, TransCanada Corporation, to resubmit the project application for review and instructs the State Department to rapidly review it—reportedly within the space of 60 days, to the extent that is possible.
Who It Will Affect: Assuming the intention is to approve Keystone, the order is a boon to TransCanada—which has seen a stock-price boost already. Environmentalists will likely organize to block the pipeline, as will many landowners in Nebraska who don't like the idea of the pipeline invading their backyards. The project, if it gets built, may give a few thousand people short-term construction jobs, but it might negatively impact climate change.
For More: Read About a Recent Leak in an Existing TransCanada Pipeline.
Presidential Memorandum 7: To Advance the Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline What It Will Do: The Dakota Access pipeline is the one that was supposed to cut across the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and was met by massive resistance. Eventually, the Army Corps of Engineers decided not to grant an easement to the company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, blocking the pipeline. The corps then launched an environmental review, leading to the consideration of alternate routes. Trump's new order instructs the corps to complete its review and approve a route for the pipeline as quickly as the law permits. In other words, the fight is back on.
Who It Will Affect: The corps will have to decide how to follow these instructions, but the Standing Rock Sioux were already gearing up to block the pipeline again. Lawsuits, protests, and confrontations are likely to result. (Even if the pipeline gets built, it likely will have a negligible impact on job creation, energy security, and gas costs. Standing Rock residents are concerned that it will pollute the water they rely on.)
For More: Read about the veterans who came to Standing Rock.
Presidential Memorandum 6: To Promote the Use of Domestic Materials in the Upgrade or Construction of Domestic Pipelines
What It Will Do: This just tells the secretary of commerce to, within 180 days, develop a plan to make sure that domestic materials (specifically iron and steel) are, as often as possible, used—well it's all in the title. In the short term, it's a symbolic show of support for US manufacturing from the Trump administration.
Who It Will Affect: If Commerce can come up with an enforceable and practical plan, then this is likely good news for steel and other US manufacturers. Even then, the effect on America's waning steel industry is contingent on the materialization of pipeline projects.
For More: Read about the Standing Rock water protectors.
Executive Order 2: Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects
What It Will Do: Basically, Trump's just telling the individuals in charge of reviewing the environmental impact of infrastructure projects to speed up as much as they can on projects deemed especially important. Given how much of the current process is enshrined in law, it's not clear how the bodies involved can speed things up. It is a signal of the Trump administration's commitment to lessening what it sees as unnecessary, burdensome regulations.
Who It Will Affect: For now, the order will send some bureaucrats scurrying about. Until they decide what's in their power to do, though, there will be no wider impact.
Presidential Memorandum 5: To Expedite the Permit and Review Process for Domestic Manufacturing Projects
What It Will Do: Similar to the last order, Trump here just tells the folks reviewing wider projects to hustle, to the extent that the law permits, when it comes to giving people an answer on whether they can break ground. It does so in part by calling on relevant authorities to reach out to potential manufacturers and seek public comment on how people would like to see the regulatory process streamlined (i.e. what regulations people want to see cut or reduced), then to issue a report on what can be done or pushed for.
Who It Will Affect: See above.
Update: The following items were initially reported by some outlets to be executive orders, but are listed as memoranda on the White House website. This post has been edited to reflect that.
Presidential Memorandum 4: Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement
What It Will Do: Since TTP wasn't yet in effect and was unlikely to be ratified by Congress, in practical terms, this did very little. Still, this officially kills a free trade deal that's been in the works for the better part of a decade between the US and 11 other major economies along the Pacific Rim. (Given widespread opposition to the deal, and Hillary Clinton's campaign-season flip-flop against it, even if Trump weren't in office, the TPP would likely have died.)
Who It Will Affect: In the short-term, since the TPP was not in force, this affects no one. TPP opponents argued that killing the deal will help keep jobs in America in the long-term by maintaining standing international economic barriers to offshoring, while proponents said lost jobs could have been offset by new jobs brought to America by the deal, and that missing out on new export markets, cheaper imports, and better security for American intellectual property will leave us on the whole poorer as a nation than we could have been. There's also the argument that ending TPP will give China, which was conspicuously boxed out of the deal, a freer hand to dominate and write the rules for the future of regional trade. Since trade deals are impossibly complex—this one involved thousands of provisions—and usually don't reveal their full effects until years after their enactment (and even then they're opaque), the domestic effect of striking down the deal will remain unclear.
For More: Read the perspective of one internet freedom activist on why TPP's death was a good thing.
Presidential Memorandum 3: Regarding the [Federal] Hiring Freeze
What It Will Do: This executive action imposes an indefinite moratorium on hiring new staffers at federal agencies, except those involved in national security functions. During the campaign, Trump promised to do this as a means of reducing corruption by shrinking the federal government by attrition. (Supposedly that would make corruption harder to hide.) Past hiring freezes have been proposed or enacted to cut down on state spending. .
Update: The Office of Management and Budget has clarified that anyone hired on or before 22 January and with at least a 22 February start date will still be brought on. For other recent hires, it leaves some leeway to agencies to make the decision on whether to still bring them on. It also stressed that there will be exceptions to the hiring freeze for national and public security.
Update II: Hiring outside contractors to circumvent the freeze is expressly forbidden.
Who It Will Affect: If you had your heart set on a job with the federal government or were in the process of being hired for a position, this is pretty painful for you. If you're an average citizen, this probably has no immediate effect on your life—or it won't until you notice, for instance, that the National Parks have a shortage of staff.
For More: Read some of the promises Trump made during the campaign.
Presidential Memorandum 2: Reinstituting the "Mexico City" Policy
What It Will Do: The Mexico City Policy, known among some pro-choice communities as the Global Gag Rule, prohibits nongovernmental organizations outside of America that receive US federal funding through aid programs from offering abortions or even talking to women or policymakers about abortions. This strict ban applies even to organizations that do not use the US funding they receive to pursue abortion-related activities. First enacted by Reagan in 1984 at a conference in Mexico City (hence the name), it's been axed by every Democrat and restored by every Republican after the White House changes hands.
Who It Will Affect: This doesn't apply to organizations inside American borders, but it forces some groups to either change the way they operate overseas or else just refuse funding from the US. Past studies of the MCP/GGR have indicated that the rule often results in overall decreased access to women's healthcare in nations receiving US aid. It has also historically increased numbers of increasingly unsafe abortions in sub-Saharan Africa, and it can have a chilling effect on public discourse on abortion in other nations as well.
For More: Read about how some women are preparing to fight Trump's anti-abortion agenda.
Executive Order 1 : Minimizing the economic burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act pending repeal
What It Will Do: Trump's first executive order was a bold move to gut Obamacare in broad yet vague ways. The brief order empowers all relevant federal agencies to "waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay" the enforcement of key rules under their jurisdiction relating to the Affordable Care Act that those agencies believe impose financial or regulatory burdens on them or individuals. It also directs agencies to encourage a "free and open market in interstate commerce" when it comes to insurance and care, and provide as much flexibility to individual states as possible.
Who It Will Affect: The order is vaguely worded, and a lot of Obamacare's requirements are written into law, which a president can't simply change at will. But some observers speculated that it could lead to less enforcement of the mandate for everyone to buy insurance—if fewer healthy people buy insurance, the markets for insurance could become less stable.
For More: Read about what the end of Obamacare could mean for you.
Senate Bill 84 : A bill to provide for an exception to a limitation against appointment of persons as Secretary of Defense within seven years of relief from active duty as a regular commissioned officer of the Armed Forces
What It Will Do: The first law Trump signed as president just does what it says on the tin. Trump had nominated retired General James "Mad Dog" Mattis as his secretary of defense, but Mattis had he only left the Marine Corps in 2013—by law, members of the military have to be seven years removed from service before they can become secretary of defense. So Congress waived the requirement, just this once, and voila.
Who It Will Affect: This means Mattis will join Trump's cabinet—he was confirmed, nearly unanimously, by the Senate the same day the president signed this bill. Mattis disagrees with Trump on a lot of issues, and some are hoping he'll be a check on Trump's impulses.
For More: Watch the VICE News Tonight video about Mattis's nomination.
Proclamation 1 : Declaring a National Day of Patriotism What It Will Do: Although Congress has to pass a bill to create a new federal holiday, the president can unilaterally proclaim a day to be special for whatever reason—last year, Barack Obama declared several days of prayer and remembrance in honor of the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
Update: It wasn't clear when this day would when Trump made this proclamation, but it turns out that it was January 20, so you already missed it.
Who It Will Affect: You won't get the day off of work, but you can be patriotic on this day if you like.
For More: Read about Trump's first few hours of document signing.
Presidential Memorandum 1: [ R egarding Regulatory Processes] for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies What It Will Do: This vaguely titled action, communicated in a memo from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, requires all new agency rules and regulations to be submitted to the Trump appointee now heading up the agency or department they pertain to for review. Previously submitted regulations not yet incorporated into the Federal Register—the repository of these rules—have to be withdrawn for review. And those incorporated but not yet enacted need to be suspended for 60 days for review. In short, every late Obama-era regulation needs to be frozen and pulled for review by a Trump appointee who will either axe or keep it.
Who Will It Affect: This is a fairly routine bit of business—the Obama administration did something similar in 2009. Update: Initial reports indicate that federal agencies have responded to this order in a broad and cautious manner, perhaps pulling or freezing more regulations than they need to.