From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:
Is the Trump Era Really Off to Such a Slow Start?
The lead story in the New York Times today: “Congressional Republicans, who craved unified control of the government to secure their aggressive conservative agenda, have instead found themselves on a legislative elliptical trainer, gliding toward nowhere.”
Eh, maybe. Yes, the big items like Obamacare replacement and tax reform are taking time – no one should expect either of those done until the middle of the year – but there’s a lot of little repeals of Obama-era regulations going on, largely ignored by cable news and the big political media…
For example, at the White House:
[President Trump signed] a bill [that] cancels out a Securities and Exchange Commission regulation that would have required oil and gas and mining companies to disclose in detail the payments they make to foreign governments in a bid to boost transparency in resource-rich countries.
Hill Republicans are also seeking to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn regulations that would: prevent coal-mining operations from dumping waste into nearby waterways; restrict methane emissions by oil and gas operations on federal land; require federal contractors to self-certify that they comply with U.S. labor laws; require each state to issue annual ratings for teacher-prep programs; and introduce a planning rule for federal lands.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who attended the signing Tuesday, said it would be “the first of many Congressional Review Act bills to be signed into law by President Trump.” He said they would “provide relief for Americans hurt by regulations rushed through at the last minute by the Obama administration.”
Congress only has 60 legislative days to repeal a last-minute regulation by an outgoing administration, so these sorts of little bills have to take priority; there’s a legal deadline.
Meanwhile, over in the Senate:
Sen. Joe Donnelly was one of four Democrats who voted with all Senate Republicans and one independent Wednesday to overturn a rule barring gun ownership for some who have been deemed mentally impaired, clearing the measure for President Donald Trump’s signature.
The Obama-era rule required the Social Security Administration to send records of some beneficiaries to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after they’ve been deemed incapable of managing their financial affairs because of a disabling mental disorder, ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia.
The Senate voted 57-43 to rescind the rule, following House passage largely along party lines on Feb. 2.
“However, I am concerned this rule, as written, is overly broad, and I share the concerns expressed by some mental health and disability advocates that the current rule could contribute to unjustified stigma,” Donnelly said.
Our society is sending two contradictory messages. The first is that there’s no stigma to having mental illness, emotional issues, feeling overwhelmed, or other psychological troubles, and no one should feel ashamed about telling others about those problems. The second is that if you admit you have those kinds of problems, some of your Constitutional rights can be taken away by others without an appeal.
Meanwhile, over in the House:
The Email Privacy Act passed the House Monday evening by a unanimous voice vote. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KAN.), is meant to close a loophole in the current Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The ECPA was passed in 1986 and was intended to protect people from government overreach.
The loophole in the ECPA is that old emails (those more than 180 days old) are deemed to have been abandoned. As such, the Department of Justice and other governmental agencies can obtain them without the necessity of obtaining a warrant signed by a judge. Currently, all that is necessary to get these emails is the issuance of a subpoena directed at the tech companies that holds the emails on its servers. Requirements to obtain a subpoena are much less stringent than requiring a judge to issue a warrant.
Is it everything conservatives wanted? No. But the stock markets keep setting new records since the election, suggesting that somebody’s optimistic about the direction of the government in the coming years.