Vowed changes to health insurance raise uncertainty for thousands
Measures could weaken but likely not stop bay cleanup efforts DOJ could see its role diminished in oversight of police misconduct
When the Obama administration laid out a 15-year plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, federal and state officials called it “one of the most comprehensive restorations in decades.”
President-elect Donald Trump cannot unilaterally dismantle the far-reaching program. It is reinforced by federal law and has already survived a legal challenge.
But the real estate mogul campaigned on plans to drastically reduce federal regulations, and leave behind nothing but “tidbits” of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The transition could be shocking for conservationists but welcome for farmers and developers who complain of an excessive and expensive regulatory burden.
“Anything that’s dependent on the EPA or federal funding I think we need to consider at least in jeopardy,” said Josh Tulkin, director of the Sierra Club’s Maryland chapter.
The so-called pollution diet the Obama administration laid out for the bay in 2010 established broad regulations on how much fertilizer can be spread on crops and lawns, how thoroughly wastewater-treatment plants must process sewage and what local governments must do to reduce runoff.
Such plans are laid out in the federal Clean Water Act, so as long as the Chesapeake is classified as “impaired,” it would take an act of Congress to halt the cleanup effort.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of wiggle room that one person could come in and do away with it,” said Valerie Connelly, executive director of the Maryland Farm Bureau.
The plan has drawn support from both Democrats and Republicans, so it’s unclear that the Trump administration would target it, said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a collaboration between Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Still, Swanson said, she hopes Trump’s rhetoric around a new approach to environmental policy was overstated “campaign talk.”
Even if the cleanup plan remains, its enforcement depends on the strength of the EPA.
“It’s always the product of a lot of leadership in how you implement a [cleanup plan] successfully, so the leadership at the U.S. EPA will deeply matter,” Swanson said.
Others are looking forward to relaxed regulation under Trump. The farm bureau is eager to fight a new EPA rule expanding the types of waterways over which it has authority, for example, while also looking forward to Trump’s promised renegotiation of trade agreements.
“I think farmers at least feel like they’re going to have a seat at the table,” Connelly said.
The election of Donald Trump raises new uncertainty not only for the nearly 421,000 Marylanders who have insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but also the state’s unique cost-control agreement with Medicare.
Under the lucrative agreement with the federal government, the state sets uniform prices for hospital care, which means Medicare pays more in Maryland than elsewhere. In exchange, the state’s hospitals must keep health costs down. But they could lose millions of dollars if the agreement, which is being renegotiated and expires in two years, went away.
The status of both federal health care programs is in doubt under a Trump administration. The Republican has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
President Barack Obama has blocked past congressional attempts to repeal the law. On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said they would help Trump keep his word.
Repeal has been a priority of Republicans since a Democratic Congress approved the law in 2010.
“Restricting the number of options in the market, which is what the Affordable Care Act ending up doing, is not the way to bring rates down,” said Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County Republican.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, warned that repeal “would have devastating effects, especially on voters in states that went most heavily for Donald Trump.”
“Eliminating someone’s health insurance is not a solution to stem increasing premiums,” Cummings said in a statement. “Repealing Obamacare would increase the national deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars, and it would be devastating for the working poor, individuals with pre-existing conditions, and millions of others who only recently were able to obtain health insurance.”
Leni Preston, president of the advocacy group Consumer Health First, said any change to Obamacare should be thought out so millions of people aren’t just thrown off health insurance without another option.
More unclear is what will happen to Maryland’s hospital cost-control deal with Medicare.
“I am hopeful that I can work with Governor Hogan and the rest of our congressional delegation to preserve Maryland’s unique model,” Sen.-elect Chris Van Hollen said.
“The Medicare waiver in Maryland has really depended on the government control of the pricing of health care,” Harris said. “I think in general that policy is not a philosophy that Mr. Trump has.”
Preston said the arrangement could go away if the federal office that oversees it is eliminated by the Trump administration or simply if new staff members are unfamiliar with the program.
After serving as an aggressive watchdog for police misconduct during the Obama administration, the Department of Justice could see its role diminished under Donald Trump, analysts say.
Such a shift would drastically alter the federal response to the continuing debate around policing in American cities at a time when many local departments are ill-equipped to tackle reforms on their own, they said.
“This is a cataclysmic change,” said Jonathan Smith, a former chief of special litigation in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, where he oversaw more than 20 investigations into police agencies. “The world really did change under our feet.”
Trump, the self-styled “law and order” candidate, said during the campaign he would reintroduce the controversial stop-and-frisk policies criticized by President Barack Obama’s Justice Department in cities across the country.
Rudy Giuliani, a top Trump adviser and campaign surrogate, has been a champion of the tactic since his tenure as mayor of New York during the1990s. He has been mentioned as a possible Trump pick for attorney general.
While Obama has focused on criminal justice reform, Trump campaigned on stronger support for police officers and a tougher approach against crime.
Samuel Walker, professor emeritus of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, said those differences in tone are likely to be reflected in how Trump deploys his Justice Department.
“This is a historic shift in public policy, and the policies in the federal government, and that’s based on Trump’s words, the Republican platform and the various people who are his advisers and supporters,” Walker said.
Stephen Rushin, an assistant law professor at the University of Alabama, said “it’s hard to imagine a Rudy Giuliani DOJ being the same rigorous enforcement arm as Eric Holder’s or Loretta Lynch’s DOJ” on police reform.
The shift could have a powerful impact in Baltimore, where Obama’s Justice Department is currently negotiating a court-enforced consent decree mandating police reforms with city officials.
A recent Justice Department investigation found discriminatory and unconstitutional practices at nearly all levels of the Baltimore Police Department.
Rushin said all signs point to a Trump administration being less litigious on police reform. more a more lenient deal could play into talks now, said David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who studies policing.
“It is going to be at the back of everybody’s mind around that table,” said Harris. “I’m sure that the people in the Department of Justice would like to get it wrapped up before the next administration comes in, but maybe the people on the other side of the table [representing the city] will want things to move more slowly.”
Mayor-elect Catherine E. Pugh, who takes office Dec. 6, said she is not concerned about reaching an agreement before Trump takes over. A greater concern, she said, is how the city will pay for the reforms.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has said his department is committed to reform with or without the Justice Department’s involvement.
Republican President-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown Wednesday morning.