Last Week’s Executive Actions:
Last week, President Trump signed three executive orders aimed at immigration and border security: The first calls for increased border security including instructions to build a wall between the US and Mexico; the second focuses on “interior” security and calls for de-funding so-called sanctuary cities and ramping up staffing for deportation; and the third calls for the suspension of entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, the barring of Syrian refugees indefinitely, and the denial of entry into the US for 90 days for citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Chaos and protests ensued over the weekend after the passage of the third order, the so-called “travel ban”, on Friday evening. Travelers were stranded around the world as airport security officials began to enact the order. European leaders denounced the ban, and some Republican lawmakers, including Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), called on Mr. Trump to back down.
On Saturday, a federal judge in Brooklyn came to the aid of scores of refugees and others who were trapped at airports across the US. The judge’s ruling prevented the government from deporting some arrivals who found themselves detained because of the president’s order. In addition, the White House backed down on part of Mr. Trump’s ban yesterday, saying that the ban would not apply to those with green cards, which grant them permanent residence in the US, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an order declaring legal residents exempt from the order. As of yesterday evening, officials said no one was being held at American airports, although lawyers said they believed that dozens were still being detained.
This week, Congressional Democrats who oppose Donald Trump’s travel ban are expected to take steps to try to block the new president’s policy. Democrats will need the backing of at least 12 Republicans to advance legislation blocking the order.
Communications Temporarily Suspended at USDA and Other Agencies
The Trump Administration instructed employees at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) earlier this week to cease all communications with Congress, the news media, and the public. Similar orders have been issued for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, the new administration has instructed officials at the EPA to freeze its grants and contracts, which could affect state and local efforts to improve air and water quality, combat climate change, and achieve environmental justice for disadvantaged communities.
While new administrations historically move quickly to take control of our government’s public relations upon taking office, the extensiveness of the new controls seems unusual.
Department officials clarified on Tuesday afternoon that USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS) had not blacked out previously available public information and that scientific articles published through professional peer-reviewed journals have not been banned.
Affordable Care Act Update:
Several panels plan to hold hearings on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this week. Among them are the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which has scheduled a hearing on the ACA and stabilizing the individual health insurance market and the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has planned a hearing on the health law and advancing patient-centered solutions. Both hearings are planned for Wednesday.
The following Senate confirmation votes for Trump Administration appointees will take place this week:
Supreme Court Nominee:
President Trump is expected to announce his nominee to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court vacancy on Tuesday evening and will likely choose someone who would become a core member of the conservative wing of the Supreme Court. Senate Democrats have promised to filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland, whom former President Obama had nominated to fill the vacancy last year. Unlike all other executive and judicial nominees, Supreme Court nominees can still be blocked by the Senate minority.