The president has announced actions in a range of policy areas – even before appointing key officials in federal agencies charged with implementing them
Donald Trump took 14 official presidential actions in his first week in office. While the actions do not have the force of law, they do represent the exercise of considerable power, setting priorities for federal agencies; guiding officials in their enforcement of the law and application of regulations; and in some cases reassigning funding within a particular agency.
The implementation of Trump’s most significant actions depends on their surviving any legal challenges and, in cases such as the construction of a border wall, winning support – and funding – from the Republican-controlled Congress. Other actions, such as those directing agencies to expedite pipeline permits or freeze hiring, take effect upon signing.
Trump’s pace for executive actions in his first week is comparable with Barack Obama’s in January 2009. In an important sense, however, Trump is moving much more quickly than his predecessors. His executive actions are unusually ambitious, and address a large number of major policy areas, from immigration to trade to national security.
Trump may be moving too quickly. Past White Houses have coordinated the rollout of executive actions with the federal agencies in question and, where possible, with Congress. Trump has a favorable Congress, but he has not reached the point of nominating most of the deputy agency heads who would enact his policies, raising the possibility of future conflict.
Even in cases where his cabinet nominees are in place, Trump reportedly failed to coordinate on sensitive policy prescriptions. A policy applying to an international oil pipeline was reportedly not reviewed by the state department, a policy unraveling Barack Obama’s healthcare law was not fully reviewed by the department of health and human services, and a draft policy on torture was not run by the defense department or intelligence agencies.
Finally, Trump’s actions may be unusually vulnerable to legal challenge. Presidents in the past have sent major executive orders to the Office of Legal Counsel to be reviewed for form and legality. The Office of Legal Counsel in Trump’s justice department currently sits leaderless.
Here is a list of Trump’s executive actions to date:
Taking apart Obamacare. An order stating the White House intent to “repeal” Barack Obama’s healthcare law. It directs agencies to avoid imposing penalties on individuals and others who do not obtain health insurance or who otherwise contravene the law. It directs agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay” other penalties, fees, taxes and costs. Health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and makers of medical devices are among those specifically protected by the order, which also directs agency heads to “encourage the development of a free and open market” for health insurance.
Freeze on regulations. A memo temporarily banning new federal government regulations. Any approved but unpublished regulations are to be withdrawn. Published regulations yet to take effect must be postponed for 60 days.
Health aid and abortion. A memo restricting funds for global health assistance groups that provide abortion services. It reverses a memo Barack Obama signed upon taking office, which in turn reversed a memo signed by George W Bush.
Withdrawal from TPP. A memo directing the US trade representative to “withdraw the United States as a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to permanently withdraw the United States from TPP negotiations, and to begin pursuing, wherever possible, bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages”.
Federal hiring freeze. A memo imposing a freeze on the hiring of federal civilian employees “across the board in the executive branch”. Does not apply to the military. It calls for a long-term plan to reduce the federal workforce “through attrition”.
Dakota Access pipeline. A memo reopening a nearly completed project to build a crude oil pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline was stopped after sustained protests by Native American groups, who said the pipeline crossed sacred land and threatened to contaminate a tribe’s water supply. In December, the US army corps of engineers denied a permit for the pipeline to drill under the Missouri river. Trump’s memo directs the army corps to revisit that denial and to approve such requests. The memo also directs officials to consider past environmental reviews “as satisfying all applicable requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act”.
Shelving regulations to expedite infrastructure. An order directing agencies to expedite environmental reviews “for all infrastructure projects” and establishing seven priority infrastructure areas including pipelines.
Keystone XL pipeline. A memo reopening a project to build a tar sands oil pipeline linking Alberta, Canada, and the Gulf coast, which was rejected by Obama after grassroots environmentalist opposition. Trump’s memo invites the firm behind the pipeline to resubmit its construction application and tells the state department to review the application quickly.
US steel for US pipes. A memo directing the commerce department to develop a plan to use steel made entirely in the United States for all pipeline projects.
Expedite new manufacturing facilities. A memo directing officials to expedite the review and approval of proposed new manufacturing facilities, and to survey manufacturers about the regulatory burdens they face. Also seeks to streamline the federal permitting process for domestic manufacturing.
Attack on sanctuary cities. An order denying federal funds to “sanctuary cities” – more than 400 cities and counties that offer some form of safe haven to America’s 11 million undocumented migrants. The order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to publish a weekly list of so-called “criminal actions” committed by undocumented migrants and publicly announce which jurisdictions had previously “ignored or otherwise failed” to detain the accused individuals. It calls for support for victims of crimes committed by “removable aliens” and demands reporting on the immigration status of all federal prisoners.
Build a border wall. An order calling for the “immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border”, for stricter enforcement of immigration laws and for speedier deportations. About 700 miles of fencing already exists along the 2,000-mile border. The order calls for a campaign for congressional funding, maybe unnecessarily; congressional Republicans say they will fund the wall, estimated to cost $12bn-$15bn upfront. The Mexican president has reiterated his refusal to pay for the wall.
‘Extreme vetting’. Trump signed an order late Friday and described it thus: “I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We don’t want ’em here. We want to be sure we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love, deeply, our people.” The published order included a 120-day suspension of the US Refugee Admissions Program; the indefinite suspension of the admission of any refugees from Syria; the capping of refugee numbers admitted in 2017 at 50,000; and severe limits on immigration from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, all Muslim-majority countries.
Buildup of military. Trump described another action signed late Friday whose text was not yet available: “I’m signing an executive action to begin a great rebuilding of the armed services of the United States – developing a plan for new planes, new ships, new tools, developing resources for our men and women in uniform. And I’m very proud to be doing that. Our military strength will be questioned by no one, but neither will our dedication to peace. We do want peace.”