Politico’s Running List Of What Trump Did While You Weren’t Looking [Updated 12/15] | Blog#42

Politico’s Running List Of What Trump Did While You Weren’t Looking [Updated 12/15] | Blog#42

Politico has been doing the nation a tremendous public service by publishing a weekly list of things Trump did while we hyperfocused on the scandal du jour. A big thank you goes to Danny Vinik and Politico!

Every one of this nation’s newspapers should follow Politico’s example by keeping a running tab on all the things the Trump oligarchy has been undoing, and keep that list outside their paywall, free for all to see. By the time the 2018 election has come and gone, at least half of this nation’s social contract will have been voided. Voters should know.

Please note that each entry includes only a portion of the original text of the articles curated here. Please click through to Politico to read the entire article.

Here is my curation of Politico’s tremendous work. I will update it weekly:

Week 27 (December 9-15)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Independent agencies take the lead on rolling back Obama-era rules

All eyes in politics were on the Alabama Senate race this week, as a Democrat pulled off a startling win against a maverick GOP candidate; in Washington, Republicans sped ahead with their overhaul of the tax code, while President Donald Trump continued to lash out at the special counsel investigation.

But that wasn’t the whole story this week: Elsewhere in D.C., federal agencies made a number of major policy changes that got much less attention. Many were at independent agencies that now have Republican majorities, with commissioners nominated by Trump, and are beginning to overturn Democratic rules issued during the Obama era. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. NLRB reverses course on multiple Obama-era rulings
Who is your real employer? The question is increasingly important as more and more Americans have jobs as contractors or through staffing agencies. In 2015, in a highly watched decision, the National Labor Relations Board—with a Democratic majority—ruled that Browning-Ferris Industries was jointly liable for labor violations committed by a staffing firm it hired to supply employees. The decision effectively expanded the definition of “joint employment,” so that more companies would be liable for infractions committed by their franchisees or contractors.

Labor advocates lauded the ruling, saying it was necessary to uphold workers’ collective bargaining rights as the number of workers in temporary or contractual work rises. But those cheers were short-lived. […]

2. White House releases its new regulatory blueprint
Twice a year, the White House releases a major report on its regulatory plans, complete with a detailed breakdown for each agency, from major ones like the Department of Labor to obscure ones like the American Battle Monuments Commission, and its scheduled rulemakings. This so-called Unified Agenda is highly anticipated by businesses, lawmakers and lobbyists.

On Thursday, the White House released its second Unified Agenda—the first was released in July—but it was the first that included new Trump-era features on so-called deregulatory actions, which are any regulatory action taken by an agency that reduces economic costs. Experts are still looking through the document, attempting to discern any changes from the July version, and digging into how Trump intends to overhaul the government’s regulatory apparatus. […]

3. Department of Transportation kills Obama-era rule on airline fees
Just 11 days before Trump took office, the Department of Transportation proposed a rule to force airlines to disclose checked and carry-on baggage fees when passengers first begin to purchase a ticket, rather than later during the process. While airlines are required to disclose those fees, consumer groups argued that they are often hidden late in the process. The Obama-era proposal, they said, would increase transparency and improve market competition. […]

4. FCC makes big moves—beyond net neutrality
The Federal Communication Commission’s decision on Thursday to overturn Obama-era rules on net neutrality dominated the headlines, provoking a sharp backlash from liberal groups who said that the rollback would threaten the free and open Internet. Conservatives praised the move, arguing that liberal fears were vastly overblown and that it will encourage digital innovation.

But beyond net neutrality, the FCC also made a couple other key decisions on Thursday. Most notably, the FCC issued a “notice of proposed rulemaking” on changing or killing a cap on media ownership, which currently prevents broadcasters from reaching more than 39 percent of the national audience. […]

5. USDA begins repeal of organic livestock welfare rule
On January 19, just a day before Trump took office, the Department of Agriculture published a new rule intending to improve conditions for organically raised animals on everything from daily access to the outdoors to acceptable euthanasia methods. Animal welfare groups and many organic farmers cheered the news, while large egg producers and other big agricultural companies said it would raise prices for consumers. […]

Read THE FULL article on Politico


 

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Week 26 (December 1-8)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Congress can barely keep the government open but agencies are still making lots of policy changes.

At times this week, it seemed like American politics was on fire: Sexual harassment allegations began bringing down big-name members of Congress, while President Donald Trump threw his full backing behind accused harasser Roy Moore for Alabama’s Senate seat and also stirred global controversy by declaring the U.S. Embassy in Israel would move to Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Congress moved closer to passing its sweeping, quickly-written tax bill.

For all the hullabaloo, Moore’s fate still rests in Alabama voters’ hands, and the Israel move would take months, if not years, to translate into a new physical embassy in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, however, the Trump administration’s ground-level policy changes continued apace, out of the headlines, from withdrawing from a major international agreement on migration to the repeal of Obama-era rules on wages and methane leaks. Here are five ways Trump changed policy this week:

1. DOL rolls back Obama-era rule on tipped wages
In 2011, Obama’s Department of Labor issued a new rule to protect workers who rely heavily on tips: It prohibited companies from pooling the tips of their workers and dispersing them to other staff. The idea was to prevent employers from pocketing the tips themselves, but critics said it created a gap between tipped and nontipped workers.

This week, the Trump administration issued a rule to repeal pieces of the 2011 rule, allowing tip pooling among workers who make at least the minimum wage, which the DOL says will allow employers to more fairly treat tipped and nontipped workers. Workers who make the special sub-minimum wage for tipped employees would still be protected.  […]

2. DOJ starts the process to—maybe—regulate bump stocks
After a gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas in October, Democrats and Republicans appeared to be nearing an agreement on a ban on “bump stocks,” a gun modification that enables rapid-fire shooting, and which was used by the Vegas shooter to turn his rifles into something close to an automatic weapon. Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed that the devices should be illegal, but talks broke down after Republicans said that a new law wasn’t needed because the Department of Justice could just reinterpret the existing ban on the possession of machine guns to include bump stocks.

This week, the DOJ took the first step in that process, announcing that it has drafted an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” to give the public and industry an opportunity to comment on a potential new interpretation of the underlying law. […]

. U.S. ends participation in global compact on migration
Faced with rising numbers of migrants across the globe, from Syrians fleeing civil war to Europe to Guatemalan children entering the United States, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in September 2016 that would create a new global compact on migration, promising to stop gender-based violence and improve educational opportunities for migrants, among other commitments. Human rights groups hailed the agreement, set to be formally adopted in 2018, as a promising effort to find a humane and fair way for countries to deal with the rising flow of refugees.

But on Sunday, the United States withdrew from the compact, saying that it infringed on U.S. sovereignty. […]

4. USDA signals major policy shift on food stamps
Should food stamp recipients be required to pass a drug test to receive their benefits? Under Obama, Republican states repeatedly requested permission to impose stricter eligibility requirements on food stamp recipients, which they said would help increase self-sufficiency and improve the integrity of the program. Those proposals were rejected by the Department of Agriculture, which said requirements like drug testing wouldn’t help recipients get back to work.

But with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue now in office, those proposals are set to receive a much warmer hearing. This week, USDA released a two-page letter—dated Nov. 30—that informed state commissioners that it “will allow greater state flexibility” in their food stamp programs. The letter pinpointed three specific areas—self-sufficiency, integrity and customer service—where the agency will likely be receptive to state-level experimentation, an indication to many experts that previously rejected GOP proposals will now be approved. […]

5. BLM finalizes delay on methane waste rule
In November 2016, shortly after Trump’s election, the Bureau of Land Management issued a rule to regulate methane leaks from new oil and gas wells, tightening up the equirements on companies operating on public lands. It was one of the Obama administration’s final efforts to combat climate change but it was hated by industry groups who said it was unnecessarily burdensome: companies already have an incentive to reduce methane leaks, they argued, because leaking gas hurts their bottom lines. The rule took effect on Jan. 17, just before Trump’s inauguration, giving environmentalists hope that it wouldn’t be rolled back.

Those hopes were short-lived. This week, BLM delayed until Jan. 17, 2019, major pieces of the Obama-era regulation, effectively negating the rule and giving the agency time to repeal or rewrite it altogether. […]

Read the full article on Politico

Week 25 (November 25-December 1)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Beneath the tax overhaul and Flynn plea, the Trump administration made a lot of policy changes.

 By DANNY VINIK    

After a relatively slow Thanksgiving holiday, Washington burst back to life this week as Senate Republicans raced to round up votes for their tax overhaul and top Democrats pressed Rep. John Conyers to resign over allegations of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump infuriated one of America’s closest allies when he retweeted an anti-Muslim video from a far-right British group.

Away from Pennsylvania Avenue, the biggest news came over a bureaucratic leadership fight at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Trump at least temporarily won in court. But beyond that power struggle, the administration made a number of quiet policy changes, rolling back Obama-era regulations and stamping a new conservative imprint on the government. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. Stockbrokers can breathe easier
One of Obama’s last, and most controversial rules was the 2016 “fiduciary standard,” designed to prevent stockbrokers from putting their interests ahead of those of their clients. This was fiercely opposed by the financial industry, and in the Trump era, it’s been the subject of some confusing back-and-forth. In May, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced that he would allow part of the rule to take effect in early June—which cheered liberals—but announced not long afterward that he wasn’t going to actually enforce those pieces of the rule until January 1, 2018. Then, at the end of August, the DOL proposed delaying key parts of the rule until well into 2019, which would give the department time to rewrite the policy altogether. […]

2. Commerce makes two trade moves against China
Trump spent much of his presidential campaign bashing China’s trade practices and raising fears about an impending trade war with America’s biggest trading partner. But in office, he has surprisingly targeted Canada instead, imposing new duties on Canadian lumber and taking a hard line over NAFTA renegotiations.

Now there are signs that the Trump administration is starting to take a tougher line on Chinese trade. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department opened an anti-dumping case into Chinese aluminum. […]

3. USDA rolls back Michelle Obama’s school lunch rules
In 2012, the Department of Agriculture issued a sweeping rewrite of the rules around school lunches, an effort to get kids to eat more fruit and vegetables and reduce their intake of sodium and fat. The controversial overhaul was a linchpin of former first lady Michelle Obama’s healthy living campaign, but was panned by some schools and Republican lawmakers who said it didn’t give the schools the flexibility to provide students with food that they would actually eat. […]

4. Old bombs are back in action
In 2008, the Department of Defense under Secretary Robert Gates announced that the United States would phase out the use of its older stock of cluster bombs by 2019. Human rights groups oppose the use of cluster bombs because they explode indiscriminately over large areas, risking the lives of many civilians, and more than 100 countries have called for a ban on the weapon. Under the new policy, the U.S. would only use modern cluster munitions that explode at least 99 percent of the time, or had safeguards in place if they didn’t explode, so that dangerous, unexploded cluster bombs could not kill civilians years or decades after they were initially dropped. […]

5. State Department extends extreme vetting 
The Trump administration has faced many setbacks as it tried to implement an executive order to block or inhibit people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. But on Trump’s promise to impose so-called extreme vetting on people entering the country, he’s had much more success after the State Department implemented new questions for visa applicants on an emergency basis earlier this year. […]

Read the full article on Politico 

Week 24 (November 19- 25)

No article due to Thanksgiving. Here is my curation of the week’s important news

What Trump and His GOP Did While We Ate Our Thanksgiving Turkey | Oligarchy on Blog#42

Week 23 (Nov. 13-Nov. 19

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Beyond the headlines, Trump is making a lot of changes.

President Donald Trump completed his 12-day trip to Asia this week without a big policy achievement — or major gaffes. But the real action was in Congress, where allegations of sexual harassment hit a sitting lawmaker (Sen. Al Franken) and continued to pile up against Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama. The House and Senate also took major steps towards overhauling the tax code, with the House passing its 447-page bill just a few weeks after it was introduced.

All of that news didn’t result any policy changes, though — at least not until a real tax package hits the president’s desk. But within the Trump administration, federal agencies continued to roll back Obama-era policies and push a new conservative agenda in a variety of different areas, including controversial reforms to a program that subsidizes cellphone service for the poor and a green light for elephant hunters. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. DOJ takes another shot at sanctuary cities
During the presidential campaign, Trump frequently promised to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities,” threatening to withhold federal money unless they help the federal government enforce the country’s immigration laws. And he chose one of the country’s top critics of sanctuary cities as his attorney general, former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

But as Sessions and Trump have attempted to actually crack down on such sanctuary jurisdictions, they’ve run into real limits on their power. This week, Sessions issued his latest threats to withhold federal policing grants from 29 jurisdictions that may not be complying with certain immigration laws. […]

2. Game on for elephant poaching
In June 2016, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced a near universal ban on the commercial sale of elephant ivory in the United States, an effort to crack down on wildlife trafficking in African countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. Conservationists cheered the news, while hunting advocacy groups argued that the move would backfire by forcing the trade underground.

On Thursday, the Trump administration sided with the hunters when the Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was reversing the Obama-era policy and would allow the import of elephant ivory that was hunted for sport in Zimbabwe or Zambia between Jan. 21, 2016 and the end of next year. The Service argued that Zimbabwe has “stepped up its anti-poaching efforts” and that allowing some commercial trade in sport-hunted ivory in the U.S. could actually support the African elephant population by providing a revenue stream for Zimbabwean conservation efforts. The lifting of the ban also applies to Zambia, although the Federal Register notice does not mention the country. […]

3. FCC overhauls the Lifeline program
The bogus claim that former President Barack Obama was giving out free cellphones to the poor — derisively called “Obamaphones” in conservative media — was one of the most persistent fake-news stories of his presidency. The story was a distortion of the Lifeline program, which subsidizes phone and broadband service, and the person who expanded it from landlines to cell carriers was President George W. Bush. Lifeline’s budget did grow under Obama, nearly tripling from 2008 to 2012; last year, it cost $1.5 billion and served 12.3 million people. […]

4. Another (possible) win for hunters
In October 2015, the National Park Service issued a new rule on hunting across 20 million acres of national reserves in Alaska, an effort to preserve wildlife in the state. The rules touched on everything from when wolves and coyotes can be hunted — not during the denning season — to a prohibition on hunting big game that is swimming. The rule, which attracted more than 70,000 comments during the proposal stage, was a victory for conservationists and a defeat for many hunters, as well as the state of Alaska which argued that the NPS was overstepping its bounds and overriding state law. […]

5. EPA delays WOTUS
In early 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the Waters of the United States rule — known as WOTUS — a far-reaching and long-awaited plan to limit pollution on America’s wetlands. WOTUS was hailed by environmentalists but loathed by conservatives who said it would impose huge, unnecessary costs on companies and in June, EPA issued a proposed rule to repeal WOTUS.

In other words, WOTUS is all but dead.

Read the full article at Politico

Week 22 (Nov. 4-Nov. 12)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

It was a big week in politics. But there was a lot of policy news as well.

It was another wild political week, as Democrats racked up electoral wins across the country on Tuesday and The Washington Post published allegations that Judge Roy Moore, the GOP Senate candidate in Alabama, had a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl. In Congress, the Senate released its counterpart to the House tax plan, and President Donald Trump met with the leaders of South Korea, China and Japan on his first trip to Asia.

Did those change any real policies? Not yet. But behind the headlines, the Trump administration did — pushing through some major changes to Obama-era policies on everything from the protection of organically raised livestock to the rules for state Medicaid programs. And three departments reversed a major legacy of the Obama era: the opening to Cuba. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week.

1. Big changes coming for Medicaid
Buried in almost every version of the Republican health care legislation this year was a little provision that would have enabled states to make a major change to their Medicaid programs, by requiring people to work if they’re going to get coverage. When those bills died, it appeared that Medicaid work requirements died with them.

But this week, Seema Verma, the head of the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services and a longtime supporter of work requirements, sent a strong message that work requirements are back on the table. In a speech to the country’s Medicaid directors, Verma lambasted the Obama administration’s approach to Medicaid, calling it a “tragic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and argued that requiring Medicaid beneficiaries to work would improve the program. […]

2. USDA delays organic livestock welfare rule
The day before Obama left office, the Department of Agriculture made one last attempt to improve conditions for organically raised animals, publishing new requirements on everything from that ensuring animals have daily access to the outdoors to acceptable euthanasia methods to bedding material during transport.

Conservation groups, animal welfare groups and many organic farmers cheered the news and USDA officials made a public case for the rule. But this week, those arguments came up short when the agency announced that it was delaying the rule until May 2018—the third delay since Trump took office—and said it found both legal and policy issues with the Obama-era rule, including errors in USDA’s original cost-benefit analysis of it. The move is a victory for many large egg producers, who had sharply criticized the rule as unnecessary and argued that it would raise costs for consumers. […]

3. New Cuba sanctions
In June, Trump appeared before cheering supporters in Miami to announce a rollback of Obama’s opening to Cuba, saying that he was “canceling” the “one-sided” deal, imposing new travel restrictions on Americans visiting the island and cutting off transactions with companies connected to Cuba’s military, security and intelligence services. But for months afterward, the agencies responsible for implementing Trump’s directive — the Treasury, Commerce and State departments — were quiet. […]

4. DHS ends protected immigration status for Nicaraguans, extends it for Hondurans
Trump’s immigration crackdown has largely focused on undocumented immigrants, including the so-called Dreamers who were effectively protected from deportation during the final years of the Obama administration. But Trump also has some levers of power over immigrants residing in the country legally — but, as a big move this week showed, using those powers can prove complicated.

On Tuesday night, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was ending a special immigration status for 5,300 Nicaraguans, giving them until January 2019 to leave the United States. […]

5. USDA withdraws Obama-era rule on genetically engineered products
On Sept. 16 of last year, the Obama administration released a new, far-reaching framework to clarify the regulatory roles of the three agencies overseeing biotechnology products, from chemicals to pharmaceuticals, the first comprehensive update in almost 30 years. Currently USDA, FDA, and EPA share responsibilities for overseeing biotech products, which have gone from a scientific novelty to a multibillion-dollar industry since the rules were introduced in the 1980s. As part of the new framework, USDA released a 32-page rule on the day before Obama left office, creating new restrictions around biotech products, including genetically engineered crops.

The ideas was to streamline the regulatory process and ensure that genetically engineered products did not pose a risk to consumers. But industry groups protested the new framework, arguing that the rules contradicted one another and imposed unnecessary costs on companies. […]

READ the full article on Politico.com

** Reminder: Only a portion of Politico’s reporting is reproduced here. Please click through to read the article!

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Week 21 (Oct. 28-Nov. 3)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Beyond the big week of news, Trump made some big policy changes.

In most presidencies, the naming of a new Federal Reserve chair is the biggest story of the week—but under President Donald Trump, it wasn’t even the biggest story of Thursday. The headlines this week were dominated by the terrorist attack in New York City, the House GOP’s new tax plan and the indictment of two top aides—and a plea deal with a foreign policy adviser—to Trump’s presidential campaign. And as usual, much of the president’s own tweeting was more of a distraction than a focused effort to accomplish his policy goals.

But beneath all of those stories, some governing was occurring—largely out of view, as the Trump administration continued to make agency-by-agency changes, with new policies in Medicaid and scientific research. It also ratcheted up a trade war with our closest ally. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. The Labor Department might be issuing a new overtime rule
When the Department of Labor announced in September that it would not appeal a federal ruling striking down former President Barack Obama’s rule that was designed to make millions more workers eligible for mandatory overtime pay, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta had previously signaled that he opposed the rule, and to most observers, the rule was dead.

But this week, in what looked like a surprise reversal, the Labor Department appealed the judge’s ruling. In fact, as a DOL official told The Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration isn’t defending the Obama-era rule; instead, it’s defending the department’s authority to issue an overtime rule altogether, which the federal ruling had called into question. […]

2. State Department releases overdue guidance on Russian sanctions
In August, faced with the threat of a veto override, Trump reluctantly signed a bill imposing sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But as of Oct. 1, the Trump administration blew through the bill’s deadline to identify which Russian entities would actually face sanctions, raising concerns about whether, instead of vetoing the bill, Trump was just ignoring it altogether.

But with two recent actions, the State Department put some of those concerns to rest. Last Friday, nearly a month late, the department released a list of more than three dozen Russian entities that will be sanctioned under the bill. And this week, it released two guidance documents about how State will enforce sanctions to Russia’s energy sector. […]

3. The Trump administration approves Utah’s Medicaid waiver
In July 2016, Utah submitted a waiver to the Obama administration to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. But it came with a catch: Tight eligibility restrictions. The Utah plan would offer Medicaid coverage to certain people earning up to 105 percent of the federal poverty line, instead of 138 percent as envisioned under Obamacare. Utah later added work requirements and a time limit on coverage to its waiver proposal.

While the Obama administration approved Medicaid waivers in some states, it never responded to Utah’s proposal. But this week, the Trump administration gaveUtah and its Republican governor, Gary Herbert, the green light on a revised plan that will provide coverage to up to 6,000 of the neediest low-income adults—those chronically homeless or suffering from substance abuse issues—in the state. […]

4. A trade war with Canada?
Perhaps the most surprising piece of Trump’s trade agenda during his first year in office has nothing to do with China or the North American Free Trade Agreement. It’s that he has targeted Canada with a series of trade sanctions, including imposing preliminary duties on Canada’s softwood lumber in April and June. In September, the countries appeared to have a chance at avoiding a messy trade fight when the Commerce Department delayed those duties as the two sides tried to negotiate a settlement.

But this week, any hopes of an agreement were dashed when Commerce imposedfinal duties on certain Canadian softwood lumber products. Under U.S. trade law, those duties aren’t actually locked in yet; the International Trade Commission, an independent agency, must make a final determination by mid-December on whether U.S. lumber producers are being harmed by Canadian imports.

The countries, in the past, have generally managed to settle the decades-long dispute through negotiations, without resorting to trade sanctions. So, Commerce’s announcement this week represents an escalation of a fight with Canada that threatens to undermine trade relations between the two allies as they continue the contentious NAFTA renegotiations. […]

5. EPA bans certain scientists from its advisory boards
Within the Environmental Protection Agency are a few important science boards that evaluate research used by the agency in rule-makings and that recommend certain science-based environmental standards, including on air pollution. While little known to the public, the boards act as something of a scientific backstop to an agency that often is involved in politically contentious fights.

This week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a major reform of those advisory boards when he banned researchers who receive an EPA grant from sitting on them. Critics called the move a purge that would allow Pruitt to stack the boards with business-friendly scientists who would shift the recommendations of the boards and give the agency scientific backing to adopt less stringent environmental standards. Pruitt and his allies responded that the move is needed to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure that the board members are independent. […]

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 20 (Oct. 22-27

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Big news on drones, Obamacare and more.

It was a crazy week in Washington, with Republican Sen. Jeff Flake announcing his retirement in a speech attacking President Donald Trump from the Senate floor, while across the Capitol, House Republicans narrowly passed a budget bill that will allow them to pass tax cuts with a party-line vote. Trump also declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, and the government released most—but not all—of the remaining classified files on the Kennedy assassination.

None of those headlines marked significant policy changes: Even the dramatic-sounding opioid emergency didn’t come with almost any new funding. In the background, however, Trump’s agencies continued to usher in a new era of conservative government, rolling back Obama-era regulations on oil and gas drilling and loosening a wide range of commercial restrictions, including ones on drones and TV broadcasting. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. Trump opens the door to a drone zone
As U.S. companies have raced to develop new, innovative uses for drones, they’ve faced tight rules in Washington as regulators attempt to understand the new technology and protect Americans from potential harm. To many private-sector companies, though, those rules have slowed a potentially productive industry and prevented America from becoming a leader in this technology.

This week, Trump sided with the commercial companies when he sent a memo to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao directing her to create a pilot program within 90 days that would loosen rules around drone usage. [Snip]

2. The Interior Department launches an offshore sale (and more)
Under Barack Obama, the Interior Department protected huge swaths of federal land from oil and gas drilling, efforts that were praised by environmentalists and criticized by industry. But since Ryan Zinke rode into office in March, the department has reversed course—and, in three separate moves this week, Zinke made his biggest effort yet to unleash a new era of drilling.

First, on Tuesday, Interior proposed its biggest offshore oil and gas lease sale in its history, putting 77 million acres—an area the size of New Mexico—up for sale. [Snip]

3. With silence from D.C., Iowa withdraws its Obamacare waiver
States worried about the health of their Obamacare insurance markets have been turning to a little-known section of the Affordable Care Act that allows them to opt out of many ACA regulations. A so-called Section 1332 innovation waiver grants states additional flexibility in their insurance markets, as long as they stay within the basic parameters of the law, and get approval from Washington.

The most controversial proposal was Iowa’s, filed in June, which would have overhauled its individual insurance market by creating an entirely new Obamacare subsidy structure, providing larger subsidies to middle-income people and smaller ones to the poor. It was seen as a very conservative plan, though many experts said it would undermine the ACA’s protections for low-income people and thus violate the waiver requirements. [Snip]

4. The U.S. trade office cracks down on developing countries 
As Trump has threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and sparred with China, South Korea and Germany over their trade policies, he’s largely left developing countries alone. Those countries, though, receive major trade advantages with the U.S., which waives duties on thousands of products as a way to encourage their economic growth.

This week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced that it will crack down on countries that take advantage of those preferences, creating a new process to review whether countries actually qualify for tariff cuts. [Snip]

5. The FCC helps out a conservative broadcaster 
For decades, the Federal Communications Commission has required TV stations to maintain a “main studio” near the communities they serve, an effort to prevent big, national broadcasters from buying up local stations and moving their production to big cities like New York. But the rule has faced criticism from some networks and Republicans as being outdated in the internet age, when people can contact local networks on social media or through email, instead of visiting them in person.

This week, under the direction of Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC sided with the critics, revoking the “main studio” rule on a party-line vote. Pai argued that eliminating the rule would allow broadcasters to focus more resources on local coverage. But many Democrats and even some Republicans see an ulterior motive: Paving the way for Sinclair Broadcast Group, the controversial conservative broadcaster that is currently seeking government approval for its $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media, to gain an even larger foothold in local markets. [Snip]

This is only a curation. Read the full article on Politico.com

Week 20 (Oct. 14-21)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Beneath the high-profile disputes, Trump made some big and surprising policy moves.

With the House out on recess and the Senate working on its budget resolution, Republicans hoped the week would be focused on tax reform. Instead the news turned into a weeklong fight about a condolence call between President Donald Trump and the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, with the president’s intensifying feuds with GOP Sens. John McCain and Bob Corker as a sideshow.

Beneath the high-profile disputes, though, the Trump administration made some major—and, in some cases, surprising—policy changes: It withdrew a rule protecting small farmers, declined a chance to call China a currency manipulator, and perhaps most surprisingly strengthened Obamacare’s individual mandate. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. USDA withdraws a protection for small farmers
It took years of pressure and a monologue from John Oliver, but on December 20 last year, the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration issued a final rule—known as the GIPSA rule—that would make it easier for small contract farmers, like chicken growers, to sue meat-packing or processing companies that engage in anticompetitive practices.

The Obama administration’s move was a long-awaited victory for small farmers, who had been arguing for years that larger producers were dictating unfair prices to farmers and retaliating against them if they spoke out—and the bar for proving illegal activity was too high. But their win, it turns out, was short-lived: After delaying the rule’s effective date in February, the Trump administration announced this week that it will withdraw it altogether.

2. IRS ramps up enforcement of Obamacare
Just hours after his inauguration, Trump signed a sweeping executive order directing federal agencies to provide Americans with “relief” from the Affordable Care Act. Though it wasn’t specific, many experts predicted he’d target the individual mandate—the part of the law, unpopular with conservatives, that penalizes people who don’t buy health insurance.

So far, however, the administration has left the mandate alone—and this week the Internal Revenue Service took a step to strengthen it.

3. Treasury declines to label China a currency manipulator—again
In April, when the Treasury Department released its semi-annual report on foreign currency practices, its first under Trump, many experts were surprised that it did not officially label China a currency manipulator—a major, and very specific, promise Trump had made in his campaign. “Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?” Trump tweeted in defense, a shockingly honest response about the political considerations involved in the currency label decision.

4. A new pipeline gets the green light
In October 2015, the Bureau of Land Management ruled that the Cadiz water pipeline, a plan to pump groundwater 43 miles from a desert aquifer to Southern California, would require the bureau’s authorization—a victory for environmentalists who argued that the project would deplete the important aquifer. But under Trump, BLM reversed its own finding, releasing a letter this week that said the pipeline no longer requires agency approval.

BLM’s new finding represents the next step in the ongoing rollback of Obama’s environmental legacy, and the rise of a business-friendly agenda at departments that Obama had used to impose new restrictions on energy projects and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

5. A setback for NAFTA renegotiations
When Mexico, Canada and the United States began renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement in August, they pledged to complete the process before the end of the year—understanding that a deal would get only harder to reach during the 2018 Mexican presidential election. But this week, the three nations effectively gave up on that timeline, pushing back the next round of negotiations until late November over “significant conceptual gaps among the parties,” and admitting that the talks could stretch into 2018.

Read the full article at Politico.com

Week 19 (Oct. 7-Oct. 13)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Iran and Obamacare dominated the news. But Trump also made a lot of other policy changes.

President Donald Trump made some real policy news this week, taking aim at President Barack Obama’s biggest legacies. First, the EPA announced it would repeal the Clean Power Plan; then Trump took two shots at Obamacare, signing an executive order to promote cheaper, less comprehensive insurance plans and scrapping critical Obamacare subsidies to insurers. Then, on Friday, he said he is decertifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal.

With the exception of scrapping the Obamacare subsidies, however, these moves don’t immediately change anything: if he repeals the Clean Power Plan or implements the policies within the executive order, it will only be after a full regulatory process. And the fate of the Iran deal really lies with Congress. But elsewhere in his administration, his political appointees made substantive changes, issuing new rules and continuing to roll back other elements of Obama’s legacy. Here is how he change policy this week:

1. U.S. to withdraw from UNESCO
During his presidential campaign, Trump railed against international institutions, like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, raising fears that, as president, he would attempt to withdraw the U.S. from those organizations, dealing a decisive blow to the post-World War II international order. Despite continued threats and harsh rhetoric, he hasn’t done so—yet. {Snip]

2. Education Department issues new priorities for federal grants
Political leaders within federal agencies have a lot of levers to change policy, from issuing new regulations to changing enforcement priorities. But one underappreciated power is federal grant-making, funneling money to organizations that favor a certain policy agenda.

On Thursday, the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos began to use this power when the Department of Education proposed new rules around federal grant programs, including a focus on the expansion of school choice—a top priority of DeVos.

3. Trump withdraws sanctions on Sudan
During the Obama administration, the White House agreed to major foreign policy deals with two of the U.S.’s top adversaries, completing a nuclear deal with Iran and renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Trump has adamantly—and vocally—rejected that approach, rolling back pieces of Obama’s Cuba policy and, just today, decertifying the Iran nuclear agreement.

Yet, for all his rhetoric about Obama’s “bad deals” and foolish foreign policy, Trump also made a move this week that looks very Obama-esque: lifting decades-old sanctions on Sudan that were imposed over Khartoum’s support of terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda.

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 18 (Sept. 30-Oct. 6)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Beneath the noise in Washington, it was easy to miss just how much policy unfolded.

With the Las Vegas shooting dominating national news, and the awkward personal drama between President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson captivating Washington, it was easy to miss just how much policy unfolded in the past week. On the diplomatic front, Trump kicked out 15 Cuban diplomats, a response to the strange attack on American personnel in the American Embassy in Havana. And on Friday, a trio of agencies issued new rules that roll back Obamacare’s birth control mandate.

But there was more: Across government, agencies continued to undo Barack Obama’s legacy and usher in a new era of conservative policy, including a big regulatory shift from the Treasury Department and a new tough-on-crime announcement from the Department of Justice. Here’s how Trump changed American policy this week:

1. Treasury keeps one Obama-era tax rule—and targets many others
In 2016, Barack Obama’s Treasury Department issued a rule to crack down on corporations that shift their headquarters overseas to avoid American taxes. The move provoked an outcry from Republicans who said Obama was unfairly punishing companies for Washington’s failure to reform the tax code—but it largely worked. The drugmaker Pfizer even abandoned a $160-billion acquisition that would have let it make the largest such shift ever.

After Trump won the presidential election, many tax experts predicted he would roll back the rule—which specifically targeted corporate inversions, a kind of merger in which companies are “taken over” by smaller firms headquartered in low-tax countries like Ireland. But this week, Treasury announced that it wasn’t going to repeal the anti-inversion rule after all. With the administration still pushing hard for tax reform to lower corporate rates and bring company revenue back into the U.S., the agency said repealing the rule now “could make existing problems worse.”

2. DOJ revives a Bush-era approach to violent crime
In 2001, the Department of Justice created a program to reduce gun violence by focusing resources on violent crime and forging better ties with local law enforcement. The program, known as Project Safe Neighborhoods, became a lower priority under Obama, as violent crime hit record lows and prosecutors focused on white-collar crime in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

4. FDA promises a new Nutrition Facts Panel—in 2020.
Former first lady Michele Obama made healthy living her top priority, including creating the “Let’s Move” campaign to promote exercise. Perhaps no policy change was more important to her than the redesign of the Nutrition Facts Panel, the label you see on most food in stores, which she announced to great fanfare in May 2016. The label was to include information on “added sugars” for the first time, provoking a sharp response from the sugar industry.

Read the rest at Politico.com

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Week 17 (Sept. 24-29)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

It was a big week for the Trump administration—including a step forward for Trump’s border wall.

Washington was busy this week as Republicans gave up—again—on their effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, released a nine-page blueprint for tax reform and wrapped up legislation before the end of the fiscal year on Saturday. For all the noise, there wasn’t much action: Obamacare remains in place, the tax blueprint is vague and the one big piece of legislation that did get done, a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, simply kicks the can down the road.

So Congress didn’t do much. But the Trump administration actually did. After a few relatively quiet weeks while they focused on hurricane recovery efforts, agencies shifted back into gear: From a new enforcement strategy at a key bank regulator to new trade sanctions on a major foreign company, the administration is moving quick to roll back Obama’s legacy and reshape federal policy. Trump even took a small step toward building his border wall. Here’s how he changed policy this week:

1. A new bank enforcement policy
In the pantheon of bank regulators, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission doesn’t get much attention. The CFTC is an obscure agency, but it plays a crucial role in the financial system: regulating derivatives, a $483 trillion market that contains some of the financial instruments that caused the financial crisis.

This week, the CFTC’s new director of enforcement, James McDonald, announced a new regulatory strategy that has drawn sharp pushback from financial watchdogs. In a speech Monday night in New York City, McDonald said that financial institutions that self-report wrongdoings and cooperate with the ensuing investigations will receive “concrete benefits” from the CFTC, including reduced penalties. He said the program isn’t intended to give banks or individuals a “pass” for their misdeeds, but instead aligns the incentives between regulators and financial institutions to reduce financial crimes while putting the CFTC’s limited resources to the best use. He also said he doesn’t just intend to punish ground-level traders, but to work his way up the chain of command, targeting executives and other managers. For an agency with a budget of just $250 million, this enforcement strategy sounds like a common-sense approach. But financial watchdogs, who were critical of the CFTC under Barack Obama, are skeptical that it will lead to tougher enforcement, doubting that banks can—or will—effectively police themselves.[…]

2. Trump’s trade battle with Canada intensifies
For all the talk of going after China and Mexico, Trump’s biggest trade battle so far seems to be with our close ally Canada—a puzzling fight that ramped up Tuesday when Commerce imposed giant duties—more than 219 percent—on Canadian aircraft-maker Bombardier. The highly watched case began after Boeing formally petitioned against the Canadian company, accusing it of unfairly benefiting from government subsidies in a $5.6 billion deal last year to sell regional jets to Delta. Canadian leaders had heavily opposed the move; last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Prime Minister Theresa May—Bombardier is based in Northern Ireland—appeared together to publicly lobby against the duties, arguing that Boeing didn’t even sell the type of regional aircraft involved in the Delta deal. […]

3. A new environmental rule gets an expiration date
During the final days of the Obama administration, the Department of Transportation finalized a rule to require states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from big highway projects, a final piece of Obama’s environmental legacy. The rule was set to take effect on February 17, but the DOT has repeatedly delayed it, first until March 21 and then to May 20—then, for key pieces of the rule, indefinitely.

This week, facing lawsuits from environmental groups and state attorneys general, the department finally relented, allowing the entire rule to take effect—but with a big caveat: The rule is going away next spring. […]

4. Interior Department rolls back Obama-era sage grouse protections
In September 2015, the Bureau of Land Management within the Interior Department finalized its plan to protect a funky-looking bird, the Sage Grouse, whose habitat sits on some of the most resource-rich land in the United States. The plan was something of a compromise between conservation groups and oil and gas companies, creating 98 separate land-use plans throughout the West that provided new protections for the Sage Grouse—but the department declined to list the bird on the endangered species list. […]

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 16 (Sept. 16-23)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Is the Trump administration preparing to test a major Medicare reform?

All eyes were on New York this week, as President Donald Trump took the podium at the United Nations and threatened war with North Korea. Back in Washington, the House was on recess and the Senate scrambled to find 50 Republican votes to pass their back-from-the-dead health care bill, an effort likely to come up short once again after Sen. John McCain announced his opposition on Friday afternoon.

More quietly, the Trump administration continues to target Obama-era environmental and workplace rules and forge ahead to implement a new conservative agenda. Perhaps most notably, the administration offered a sign this week that it might test a major Medicare reform long championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. Trump administration hints at big Medicare experiments
The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Innovation, created in 2010 by Obamacare, can spend $1 billion a year on innovative ideas to reduce Medicare costs. Under Obama, the agency piloted a number of ideas, such as reducing Medicare payments for cancer drugs and changing how the government pays for hip surgery. Republicans complained of executive overreach and tried to scale back the agency’s powers, but now that Trump is in the White House, the GOP is looking to turn the agency to its advantage.

This week, the Trump administration took the first step toward reforming CMMI when it released a nine-page notice asking for comments on a “new direction” for the agency. The notice is just a preliminary move—it doesn’t actually change any policy right now—but it sends a clear message about how Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services, and Seema Verma, director of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, intend to use the agency. […]

2. Labor Department delays a rule on cancer-causing silica dust
In March 2016, the Department of Labor issued a regulation lowering the workplace exposure standard for silica, a mineral that can cause lung cancer when ground into dust and inhaled. The final rule was heralded by workplace advocates as long overdue—it took more than four decades to finalize—and was set to be enforced on June 23.

But in April, the Department of Labor announced it was delaying enforcement of the rule for three months until September 23. Technically, that date still stands. But this week, the agency issued a memo, saying that as long as employers show they have made a “good faith effort” to comply with the rule, the agency will give them a pass for any violations in the next 30 days. In other words, the silica rule is effectively delayed another month. […]

4. EPA delays its formaldehyde rule, again
On Dec. 12, the Environmental Protection Bureau issued a rule on formaldehyde emissions for certain wood products, one of the last significant rules issued by the EPA during the Obama administration. The rule was set to take effect on Feb. 27, but Trump already delayed that date twice: first to March 21 and later until May 22. At that point, the rule took effect.

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 15 (Sept. 10-15)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

From updated guidelines on driverless cars to new visa sanctions, Trump continues to change policy.

President Donald Trump’s unexpected dalliance with the other party continued this week as he appeared—maybe—to agree with the Democratic leadership over the so-called Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children. He also met with moderate Democrats about tax reform, even saying the rich won’t benefit “at all” from his plan.

But despite all the news attention, nothing actually happened on those fronts. What did happen took place in the background—and despite the ideological anxiety Republicans may be feeling toward those headline meetings, there’s not much doubt about the direction his administration is taking on real-world policy. This week, the push to roll back Obama-era rules continued—from new business-friendly guidelines on driverless cars to regulatory rollbacks at the Environmental Protection Bureau and Department of Labor. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. DHS suspends some visas for four countries
When the government orders someone deported from the U.S., that deportation doesn’t just happen automatically. It requires approval from the receiving country; the U.S. generally can’t just leave people in other countries. Most countries routinely approve such removal orders, but about a dozen countries are uncooperative, preventing the U.S. from actually deporting those individuals. […]

2. The first Trump-era guidelines on driverless cars
Last September, the Obama administration issued the first guidelines on driverless cars, recommending industrywide standards to support the growth of the burgeoning industry. The guidelines, which were nonbinding, requested that automakers submit to a 15-point “safety assessment,” touching on everything from the testing of driverless vehicles to the prevention of vehicle hacking.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration issued the first update to those guidelines, replacing the 15-point safety assessment with 12 “safety elements” that touch on many of the same issues. Consumer groups and industry officials said the plan was more industry-friendly, with significant emphasis on the voluntary nature of the guidelines. (The word “voluntary” appears 57 times in the 36-page document, compared with just five times in the original 116-page guidelines.) Critics said that the plan effectively imposes no rules on automakers, while industry officials said the light regulatory touch is essential to continued technological improvement. […]

3. EPA’s regulatory roll back continues
Another week brought more regulatory rollbacks at the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Wednesday, the EPA delayed for two years parts of an Obama-era rule limiting the dumping of toxic metals, like mercury, from coal-fired water plants. The delay affects two provisions of the 2015 rule, relating to specific waste products, while allowing the remainder of the rule to take effect as planned. The news wasn’t exactly a surprise, as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has previously said the agency intended to change parts of the rule. He now has plenty of time to do so.

Read the rest of this article on Politico.com

Week 14 (Sept. 1-9)

3 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Behind the GOP infighting, the Trump administration is making real policy changes.

The headline noise in Washington this week brought some real policy news for a change. President Donald Trump undercut Republican congressional leaders and agreed to Democrats’ proposal for a short-term spending bill and debt ceiling hike; Congress passed it in the form of a $15 billion relief bill for Hurricane Harvey. Trump said he would end—in six months—Barack Obama’s protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. And on Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that her department would revamp Obama’s policy on sexual assault in colleges.

Outside of those changes, though, this week was rather quiet on the policy front; many agencies were busy with Harvey and preparing for Hurricanes Irma and Jose to hit. That didn’t mean nothing happened—Trump’s rollback of Obama’s legacy continued. It was just a little slower than usual, and so our weekly roundup of five big ways Trump changed policy this week is pared down to three:

1. Trump sets a new goal for deregulation
Trump hasn’t had any big legislative wins, but he has succeeded at clogging up the regulatory system—the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” in the words of former chief strategist Steve Bannon. In one of his first actions as president, Trump directed the White House budget office to set an annual cap on regulatory costs for each agency—that is, the total economic costs of all new regulatory and deregulatory actions. For the rest of fiscal 2017, the cap was zero, meaning whatever an agency does this year, it can’t increase net costs at all. But what would the cap be in fiscal 2018?

On Thursday, the Office of Management and Budget provided an answer: Agencies are expected to “propose a net reduction in total incremental regulatory costs.” In other words, the economic cost of federal regulations must go down.

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 13 (August 26-Sept. 1)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Hurricane Harvey dominated the news but the Trump administration keeps changing policy.

Politics took a back seat this week as Hurricane Harvey devastated southeastern Texas, dropping more than 50 inches of rain in some locations and killing more than three dozen people. Officials are just beginning to assess the damage inflicted by the storm, which is expected to total in the tens of billions of dollars and will further complicate a crowded legislative agenda this September.

President Donald Trump’s week was subdued, by his standard. He visited Texas on Tuesday, though avoided the afflicted regions where recovery efforts are ongoing, and then began his public push for tax reform with a speech in Missouri on Wednesday, tough on Congress but light on details.

Beyond the West Wing, most government agencies were focused on Harvey, dedicating resources and manpower to assist in the recovery efforts. There just wasn’t much time to finalize and roll out new policies. But it wasn’t all quiet, as agencies from the Department of Justice to Department of Labor managed to issue some real policy changes that didn’t get much attention behind the flood news. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. Police can buy military equipment again
In August, 2014, after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, looked something like a war zone as protesters set fires and police responded with camo-clad snipers and armored vehicles the result of a decades-long program allowing local law enforcement agencies to receive surplus military equipment.

The controversial image of police rolling in on their own citizens like an army roused Obama into action. Nine months later, his administration prohibited the transfer of certain equipment, such as grenade launchers and armored vehicles, to local police departments and limited the transfer of other items such as drones, riot gear and explosives.

2. Trump nixes an Obama policy to reduce pay discrimination
Last year, the Obama administration made a final attempt to reduce the racial and gender pay gaps, finalizing changes to a form—the EEO-1—that requires employers to report workplace demographics. Under the revised form, employers with more than 100 workers would have to report pay data by race, ethnicity and gender. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency responsible for the form changes, could have then used the data to launch an investigation into discrimination. The changes were set to take effect March 2018.

3. The fiduciary standard gets delayed for more than a year
One of Obama’s final financial reforms was the “fiduciary standard,” a dry-sounding policy that essentially means stockbrokers can’t put their own interests ahead of their clients’. In May, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he would let the fiduciary standard take effect as planned on June 9. But that wasn’t the full story: Only some parts of the rule, which requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients, took effect on that date; the rest of the rule takes effect on January 1, and it quickly became clear that Acosta wasn’t going to let that happen.

There is more… Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 12 (August 19-25)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Behind Trump’s speeches, real policy change is happening in Washington.

Most of the news President Donald Trump generated this week was, as usual, about Donald Trump himself: He induced whiplash by delivering a sober address on Afghanistan Monday night and then, less than 24 hours later, pumping up the crowd at a fiery, off-the-leash campaign rally in Arizona. He also continued to accelerate his war of words with leaders of his own party, attacking Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, as well as Sens. Bob Corker, Jeff Flake and John McCain.

And as usual, there wasn’t much policy behind all that noise: Even the new Afghanistan strategy includes only a modest bump in troops overseas. But in Washington, Trump’s appointees continued to push their own priorities on the government, rolling back Obama-era policies largely out of the public eye. Here’s how Trump’s White House changed policy this week:

1. The State Department turns up the heat on Egypt
When Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi visited the White House in April, Trump lavished the foreign leader with praise, saying he’s doing a “fantastic job in a very difficult situation” and that “we are very much behind President al-Sisi.” Those comments drew a sharp rebuke from human-rights groups that had been sharply critical of Sisi’s human rights record.

So, it came as some surprise this week when the State Department delayed $200 million in aid to Egypt and cut another $100 million in aid altogether. State officials said the move was a result of Egypt’s human rights record, including a new law that restricts the activities of nongovernmental organizations.

3. The White House changes American research priorities
Every year, the government funds billions of dollars in research, from large National Institutes of Health grants to small housing experiments. The sheer magnitude of money gives the government great influence over the direction of research across industries, a hidden lever for a sophisticated administration to guide the country well into the future.

This week, the Trump administration revealed that it intends to use that lever. The Office of Management and Budget, led by Director Mick Mulvaney, published a four-page memo—dated August 27—that lays out the administration’s research and development priorities for fiscal 2019, which includes a focus on military technologies, border security and treatments for drug addiction.

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 11 (August 12-18)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

A crazy week in the White House masks real policy changes in the administration.

Washington was jolted from its August recess this week after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly, President Donald Trump stoked racial tension by blaming “both sides” for the violence—and then combative top aide Steve Bannon was pushed out on Friday.

Rumors swirled that other White House officials were on the verge of resigning, but there’s a reason why those aides, in the White House and agencies, have yet to pull the cord: They’re still achieving conservative reforms, despite the distractions coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, big policy changes came from the Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services. Here’s how Trump changed policy in America this week:

1. DHS ends parole program for Central American children
In November 2014, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the Obama administration was taking steps to stem that summer’s border crisis, in which tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors flooded into the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The State Department set up a program to allow the children of parents who are lawfully present in the U.S. to seek refugee or parole status while still in their home countrieswithout actually making the dangerous journey to the United States. The goal was to reduce the flow of unaccompanied children without leaving them in danger.

2. The end of an Obama health care payment experiment
While most of the attention on Obamacare has focused on the individual insurance market and the Medicaid expansion, the law also tests numerous ideas to lower the spiraling cost of health care. One approach is known as “bundled payments,” which institutes a fixed price for certain medical procedures, like hip surgery or knee replacement. If the hospital could perform the procedure for a lower cost, it kept the difference. If not, it lost money.

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 10 (August 6-12)

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

Washington may be quiet, but the Trump administration isn’t slowing down.

It was supposed to be a quiet week in Washington, with Congress on recess and President Donald Trump staying at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. But Trump shattered any respite with his unexpected threats towards North Korea and wide-ranging news conference Thursday, including a string of attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Even if Trump hadn’t loudly waved those sticks, things wouldn’t have exactly been quiet within the administration itself. With far less attention, Trump’s agencies continue to crank out new policies, rolling back Obama’s regulatory legacy and imposing a new era of conservative reforms on everything from protections for a funky-looking bird to a controversial rule for stockbrokers. Here’s how Trump is changing policy in America this week:

1. Interior relaxes Obama-era Sage Grouse rules
In September 2015, the Obama administration announced new protections for the sage grouse, a bird whose habitat happens to cover some of the most resource-rich lands in the American West. The administration declined to list the bird on the endangered species list—a big victory for oil and gas companies—but the new conservation plan included strong measures to protect sage grouse habitat.

This week, the Interior Department, led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, began rolling back the conservation plan, directing the Bureau of Land Management to shrink the buffer zones between sage grouse breeding grounds, among other changes. Environmentalists slammed the move, saying it jeopardized the carefully crafted Obama-era compromise between oil and gas interests and environmental groups. The changes won’t take effect overnight: It can take years for the agency and states to implement new land-use policies that determine where companies can drill for gas and oil, but it was another big sign of the Interior Department’s new priorities under Zinke.

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 9 (August 1-5)

5 things Trump did while you weren’t looking: Week 9

Trump takes steps on building the wall and “extreme vetting” of visa applicants.

In Congress the dam finally broke last week: With the death of the Republican health care bill, Senate Democrats allowed dozens of nominees and bills to pass before lawmakers all scattered for August recess. Even the White House had a relatively quiet week as his new chief of staff, John Kelly, became acquainted with his new job and imposed new rules around the Oval Office.

President Donald Trump, as usual, couldn’t keep out of the headlines: Transcripts of his January phone conversations with the leaders of Australia and Mexico leaked to the media and he held a campaign-style rally in West Virginia on Thursday night. Outside the West Wing, Trump’s agencies had a busy week—again, largely out of the spotlight. The Department of Homeland Security took a step toward building a border wall; the State Department moved toward “extreme vetting” of visa applicants. Plus, the Food and Drug Administration had a surprise announcement on tobacco products. Here’s what you need to know this week about how Trump really is changing policy in America:

1. DHS waives laws to help build a border wall
Congress doesn’t appear very interested in funding Trump’s promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Senate Republicans, for instance, introduced a $15 billion border security bill this week—and none of that money was earmarked for the wall. Democrats are refusing to vote for any bill that includes border wall money.

But the Trump administration is continuing to take steps to build an actual, physical wall. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a notice that it was waiving more than three dozen environmental laws in order to build border wall prototypes along a 15-mile border in the vicinity of San Diego, California.

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 8 (July 24-30, 2017)

At first glance, the past week in Washington looks like a lot of noise about nothing. Three versions of the Republican Obamacare repeal effort failed in the Senate, the last in a dramatic early morning vote Friday, leaving the national health care law intact after months of GOP efforts to kill it. President Donald Trump surprised Pentagon officials by tweeting that he was banning transgender troops from the military, but neither the White House nor the Department of Defense appears to have a policy in place, so the status quo holds for now. And despite Trump’s social-media war on his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions remains in his job.

Still, behind the blizzard of White House infighting and drama on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration has steadily been pushing policies behind the scenes, rolling back Obama’s legacy in favor of a new national regulatory regime friendlier to businesses and tougher on undocumented immigrants. Here’s the eighth installment of The Agenda’s weekly series on how Trump is quietly changing policy in America.

1. Trump targets Obama’s fuel economy standards
On January 13, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency attempted to lock in its 2022-2025 fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks, issuing a finding that wasn’t due for another 15 months.

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 7 (July 17-23, 2017)

Republicans in Washington couldn’t stay out of the headlines this week: First the GOP’s health care bill stalled in the Senate; then President Donald Trump sat down for an interview in which he went after his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. On Friday he shook up the West Wing by bringing in financier Anthony Scaramucci to run communications, and accepting Sean Spicer’s resignation as press secretary.

But in a policy sense, that was all noise—and while those stories sucked up all the media oxygen, Trump’s appointees were busy changing federal policy. The U.S. Trade Representative released its objectives for renegotiating NAFTA; the Department of Health and Human Services ended funding for many teen pregnancy prevention programs; and the Treasury and State departments imposed new Iran-related sanctions on 18 individuals and entities.

And those weren’t even the big moves. Here’s how the Trump administration changed American policy this week:

1. Reinstating property seizure

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 6 (July 10-16, 2017)

Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day in Washington, even in the summer. Republicans had yet another high-stakes week of healthcare negotiations. Meanwhile, a trip to Paris wasn’t enough for President Donald Trump to escape the snowballing Russia scandal, which has now ensnared his son, Donald Trump Jr., who apparently met with a Russian lawyer during the campaign to discuss potential dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Despite stagnation on Capitol Hill—the Senate hasn’t even held a roll-call vote on legislation since June 15—Trump’s policy agenda has not stagnated. From immigration to healthcare to trade, political appointees have settled in and are beginning to leave the administration’s mark on the government.

Here’s week six of The Agenda’s series on how Trump is changing policy, while most people’s eyes are elsewhere:

1. Foreign entrepreneurs not welcome

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 5 (July 3-9, 2017)

’For once, Washington was quiet this week. Lawmakers were out of town for the July 4 recess and President Donald Trump spent much of the time at his golf course in New Jersey. During the latter half of the week, the action picked up as Trump jetted off to the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, where he had his first in-person meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At home, GOP leaders continued to try to negotiate a compromise on health care between moderates and conservatives.

Given all that, it might seem as though little actual policymaking happened —but you’d be surprised at how much actually happened. The Trump administration continued to roll back Barack Obama’s legacy this week, especially on climate policies where agencies undertook a series of moves that benefit oil and gas companies and infuriated environmentalists. Elsewhere, the Department of Education gave for-profit colleges another win and the Pentagon delayed an Obama-era policy on transgender troops.

Here’s the fifth week of POLITICO’s ongoing series on how Trump is quietly changing policy in America:

1. A new era for the renewable fuel standard

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 4 (June 26-July 2nd, 2017)

It was “Energy Week” in Washington—but you’d be forgiven for not noticing. The Supreme Court announced a series of major decisions on Monday, slightly easing the injunction on President Donald Trump’s travel ban and taking up a big gerrymandering case. Eyes then quickly turned to healthcare where Senate Republicans searched for a compromise between conservatives and moderates, an effort that is proving more challenging than expected. And then they just as quickly turned to Twitter, where Trump made life harder for his own party by launching crude personal attacks against Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Beneath the chaos, though, the Trump administration continued to turn back Obama-era policies, especially at the Labor Department, which took aim at nearly every major Obama rule in just a few short days. The Agenda is back to document it all. Here are five big policy changes from last week:

The Labor Department was busy, Part 1

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 3 (June 19-25, 2017)

The White House declared it “Tech Week,” inviting a group of CEO’s to repair the administration’s somewhat rocky relationship to the innovation industries. But for all intents and purposes, this turned out to be Healthcare Week in Washington.

The Senate GOP’s healthcare bill dropped with a bang on Thursday, drafted so secretly that even key Republican lawmakers didn’t know what was in it. The bill so dominated the Washington news that even Trump’s walk back of his Comey-tape threat got only a short ride in the spotlight.

Whether Congress really gets a health care bill done is anyone’s guess; for now, it’s a massive rethink of Medicaid and some significant changes to Obamacare. But away from Capitol Hill, the White House really is still getting stuff done, quietly continuing its broad rollback of Obama-era policies. As part of our weekly roundup of what’s really changing across the government, here are five big policy changes from the last week:

1. The Labor Department loosens a rule on beryllium exposure

Read the rest at Politico.com

Week 2 (June 12-18, 2017)

It was a tough week for getting things done in Washington: The shocking attack on the Republican congressional baseball team, and then Donald Trump’s seemingly reckless tweetstorm about the Russia investigation, took up whatever oxygen was left after the Jeff Sessions hearings. “So much is happening in Washington and yet nothing is happening at all” read one recent piece of commentary.

But under the hood that’s not actually true. The White House dubbed the week “Workforce Development” week, following up on “Infrastructure Week”—and much like last week, it came with only minor policy proposals: Trump signed an executive order reducing regulations on apprenticeship programs and said the government would double federal funding for apprenticeships, although it’s unclear where that extra money would come from.

At the end of the week, though, things really started moving. On Thursday night, the Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era document that allowed the parents of DREAMers to live and work in the United States, although the policy was the subject of an ongoing lawsuit and had never taken effect. It also declined to rescind an earlier memorandum on DREAMers themselves. And later this afternoon, Trump is set to announce a roll-back of Obama’s Cuba policy, strengthening the embargo.

And beyond the Oval Office, the Trump administration continues to make substantive policy changes, from a deal on beef with China to increased autonomy for the Pentagon. The Agenda is back for the second week of our new series in which we highlight five major policy changes you might have missed.

1. U.S. and China make nice on beef, dairy and poultry

Read the rest on Politico.com

Week 1 (June 4-11, 2017)

All eyes were on Washington this week as the Trump administration hosted a series of events to promote its infrastructure policy — highlighting the president’s proposals to cut red tape, reform air traffic control and rebuild America’s roads and bridges. The president held a signing ceremony Monday, took his message to the American people in Ohio on Tuesday and invited governors to the White House on Thursday. “Infrastructure week” dominated the news.

Just kidding. It’s true — he really did do all those things—but you’d be forgiven for having no idea they happened. The eyes on Washington were all glued to the drama around former FBI Director James Comey.

Infrastructure week didn’t contain any new actual policy proposals, despite an exultant tweet from Vice President Mike Pence calling it a “banner week for infrastructure,” and Trump didn’t sign a bill. Instead, he signed a purely symbolic document in support of Rep. Bill Shuster’s plan to create a nonprofit to oversee air traffic control, and released a vague list of infrastructure principles that had already been released in his budget.

But behind all the theater, stuff really is happening in Washington. Trump’s political appointees are — slowly — getting settled into their new jobs, reviewing Obama-era policies and leaving their fingerprints on the bureaucracy. These changes don’t make national headlines, and they probably won’t be mentioned in a tweet from the commander in chief—but they could affect the lives of most Americans.

So you don’t miss these changes, The Agenda is launching a weekly series highlighting five important policy changes that took place in the past week. It will track how Trump’s agenda is being implemented across the government, even as the White House remains politically bogged down by the Russia investigation and struggles to work with Congress. And what better week to begin than this one when Washington was fixated on one Senate hearing room, while Trump’s appointees continued to roll back Obama’s agenda and sweep in a new era of conservative policy.

1. A boost for Uber and McDonald’s.

Read the rest at Politico.com


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For Other News You May Have Missed See

[Updated 11/24] What Got Undone While Trump Distracted Us With Tweets | Oligarchy on Blog#42


Thanks to a tip from New York Times reader, Sharon, from Worcester, Mass., we can now add Massachusetts member of Congress, Mike Capuano, as an additional resource to track the misdeeds of the Trump administration. Capuano is keeping a list on his congressional website.