Barack Obama laughs at a tired Trump in the Oval Office (illustrated)
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It’s true: Trump signed more laws in his first few months than Obama, Bush, or Clinton.

But only because he hates Obama so much — they weren’t actually good or meaningful laws.

He named two clinics, encouraged businesses to fly flags on National Vietnam War Veterans Day and women to become astronauts, got a waiver for his otherwise ineligible-to-serve Defense Secretary, put some people on a museum board. Woo.

The only big-deal changes were his repeal of 13 regulations put in place by Obama — which just turn the clock back 6 months, not do anything new. It’s unfortunate, since many of those rules helped Americans save for retirement, receive unemployment benefits, have clean drinking water, and helped protect us from identity theft. Fortunately, further big revisions to the Obama years are now out of Trump’s reach.

Those repeals were accomplished with the Congressional Review Act, a power that had only been used once before. And if Obama hadn’t banked on a Hillary Clinton win and waited until the last minute to implement the regulations, Trump couldn’t have touched even those.

Limits of the CRA

Despite a Republican president and a Republican Senate and a Republican House, there’s been a staggering inability to do much of anything that matters in the past five months. It has to chafe Trump supporters that he promised quick Obamacare repeal, tax reform, term limits on Congress, and funding for his wall. All they’ve actually gotten is a lot of flailing, showboating, finger-pointing, and petulant tweets.

The one easy tool Trump and Congress had for their anti-Obama agenda broke last month. The Congressional Review Act gives Congress 60 “legislative days” to repeal newly finalized regulations. Because of how long regulations take to implement, that works out to about roughly six months after Obama left office — mid-May.

Since then, Trump has signed just five laws. They update rules related to disability benefits for public safety officers, make it easier for veterans to get jobs in law enforcement and for Homeland Security to buy cars. Then the big stuff: One names a courthouse in Tennessee and the last adds the phrase, “rule, or regulation” to an existing law.

What Trump managed to kill

  • Rules that would require oil and coal companies to disclose payments to foreign governments or the federal government for commercial development
  • A rule that improved protections for water supply, streams, fish, and wildlife by requiring permits before coal miners polluted rivers with heavy metals like selenium, mercury and arsenic
  • A rule that kept mentally ill people from acquiring guns
  • A rule that prevented companies with shoddy safety records from getting federal contracts
  • A rule giving government more say in land planning to protect wildlife habitat and limit wildfire impact
  • A rule that evaluated teacher preparation program effectiveness and a rule related to school accountability
  • A rule that restricted drug testing on unemployment benefit applicants
  • A rule that gave the federal government authority over wildlife regulations on federal refuge lands in Alaska
  • A rule that required better records of work-related injuries and illness
  • A rule that added new privacy rules and required better data protection for Internet providers, which I wrote about when it happened
  • A rule that protected state funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers
  • A rule meant to help low-income workers save for retirement

The way the CRA works, too, means federal agencies can’t try to implement similar rules again in the future. They will have to come explicitly from Congress.

Typically, the text of laws explains their intent and effect. There was no justification offered for any of these repeals — every single one of the laws simply states what is being repealed in very vague terms. That’s pretty pathetic, given several of these laws directly affect consumer income and well-being.

On the bright side, the clock ran out before Republicans could use the CRA on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new rules on prepaid cards. Those rules will require better disclosure of fees and bring the cards’ liability protection more in line with other debit and credit cards, making it harder for users to get scammed out of their money. Since people with poor credit and lower incomes are more likely to use these cards, it’s a win for them.

A few key Republican supporters also joined with Democrats to prevent repeal of a rule that combats climate change. Now, it’ll take a lot more work to undo Obama-era regulations. And as long as Republicans drunkenly fumble at the wheel, the rest of his legacy is safe.

If Trump’s smart — and I wouldn’t say that — he’ll avoid introducing any new regulations in the last few months of his term. Because Democrats can and will permanently revoke those with the CRA, too.


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Article last modified on August 8, 2017. Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Time’s Up on Trump’s Undo Button - AMP.

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Article last modified on August 8, 2017. Published by, LLC .