Lead­ing the charge for limited gov­ern­ment

The so-called ‘do-noth­ing’ ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress are ac­tu­ally do­ing a lot

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By H. Ster­ling Bur­nett

Fewer than 70 days into the new ad­min­is­tra­tion and some in the me­dia are al­ready writ­ing and talk­ing about the “do-noth­ing” Congress and pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion, which crit­ics al­lege have yet to ac­com­plish any­thing sig­nif­i­cant. Re­gard­less of what you might hear from their crit­ics, you shouldn’t be­lieve these base­less ac­cu­sa­tions. In less than three months, Pres­i­dent Trump and Congress have done a lot. Most of their early ac­tions are get­ting rel­a­tively no at­ten­tion, how­ever, which is oc­cur­ring for a num­ber of rea­sons, in­clud­ing the fact most mem­bers of the main­stream me­dia are big-gov­ern­ment lib­er­als who dis­like Mr. Trump and Congress for what they’ve achieved.

The laws passed and ex­ec­u­tive or­ders is­sued by Mr. Trump and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans are sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent than those ac­tions taken by most pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions. Rather than ex­pand the size and scope of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, Mr. Trump and the GOP have worked to re­duce gov­ern­ment’s in­flu­ence on so­ci­ety — in large part by re­vers­ing or block­ing “mid­night” reg­u­la­tions en­acted by Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials be­fore they fi­nally made their way out the door at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue in Jan­uary.

Repub­li­cans have long-claimed their party is the cham­pion of limited gov­ern­ment, but since Ron­ald Rea­gan was pres­i­dent in 1980s, they have done rel­a­tively lit­tle to back up the claim. In­stead, Repub­li­can pres­i­dents have of­ten pushed their own brand of ac­tivism that grew gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing No Child Left Be­hind, the cre­ation of the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the ex­pan­sion of pre­scrip­tion drug cov­er­age, a ban on im­ported semi-au­to­matic ri­fles,

and the cre­ation of the U.N. Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change.

When Repub­li­can pres­i­dents weren’t busy do­ing their best im­pres­sion of big-gov­ern­ment Democrats, Repub­li­can-con­trolled Con­gresses re­peat­edly failed to block reg­u­la­tions they said are il­le­gal and passed bud­gets that in­creased gov­ern­ment’s power and con­trol.

Thus far, this trend seems to have halted with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Mr. Trump is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that ul­ti­mately en­sured the com­ple­tion of the Dakota Ac­cess Pipe­line, a project Pres­i­dent Barack Obama blocked in the wan­ing days of his ad­min­is­tra­tion to ap­pease his rad­i­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal al­lies.

Mr. Trump also is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to force re­con­sid­er­a­tion of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s (EPA) Wa­ters of the United

States (WOTUS) rule, which would have greatly ex­panded the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s con­trol over pri­vate prop­erty across the United States. Fed­eral courts had pre­vi­ously stayed WOTUS, out of the sus­pi­cion it un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally ig­nored pre­vi­ous Supreme Court wet­lands de­ci­sions. Now, Trump or­dered EPA to re­con­sider the rule and has de­cided not to de­fend it in court.

Ar­guably the most far-reach­ing ex­ec­u­tive or­der Mr. Trump has is­sued is his di­rec­tive for all ad­min­is­tra­tive agen­cies to re­move two reg­u­la­tions for each new reg­u­la­tion they is­sue.

On the bud­get front, Mr. Trump has pro­posed cut­ting the bud­gets of the vast ma­jor­ity of the ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tory agen­cies. For in­stance, he pro­posed cut­ting EPA’s bud­get by more than 25 per­cent and re­duc­ing the agency’s staff by 20 per­cent. In the process, Trump would end all of EPA’s cli­mate pro­grams.

Other agen­cies and cab­i­net of­fices would also see sig­nif­i­cant cuts, in­clud­ing a nearly 29 per­cent cut to the State De­part­ment’s bud­get and an ap­prox­i­mately 12 per­cent cut to the De­part­ment of the In­te­rior.

Mr. Trump seems in­tent to do what he has promised — which greatly con­flicts with what other so-called con­ser­va­tives be­fore him have done — forc­ing gov­ern­ment to fo­cus on its core func­tions. No more fund­ing for the arts, pub­lic tele­vi­sion, greenen­ergy boon­dog­gles, or in­ter­na­tional cli­mate pro­grams on Mr. Trump’s watch.

Congress has had the power to re­view and block ma­jor reg­u­la­tions since it passed the Con­gres­sional Re­view Act (CRA) in 1996, but it has rarely used it. CRA al­lows the House and the Se­nate to pass res­o­lu­tions of dis­ap­proval to block ma­jor reg­u­la­tions is­sued by fed­eral agen­cies. De­spite tens of thou­sands of reg­u­la­tions be­ing en­acted in the 20 years since CRA passed, Congress has used it only three times to block new rules, and only once has a pres­i­dent signed the res­o­lu­tion. (Mr. Obama ve­toed the two dis­ap­proval res­o­lu­tions passed dur­ing his pres­i­dency.)

Mr. Trump’s as­cen­dance seems to fi­nally have stiff­ened Congress’ back­bone, be­cause the House and Se­nate are now us­ing the CRA with a vengeance. Congress has sent more than a half­dozen CRA res­o­lu­tions dis­ap­prov­ing late-term Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tions to Trump for his sig­na­ture, and, in­cred­i­bly, he’s ac­tu­ally sign­ing them.

Us­ing the CRA, Congress blocked a reg­u­la­tion forc­ing lo­cal school dis­tricts to adopt spe­cific fed­eral teacher-prepa­ra­tion pro­grams and di­rec­tions for how states and school dis­tricts must eval­u­ate and re­port school per­for­mance. Congress also pre­vented reg­u­la­tions that would have taken away se­nior cit­i­zens’ Sec­ond Amend­ment rights if they need help man­ag­ing their fi­nances.

In its first use of the CRA un­der Mr. Trump, Congress halted a rule im­posed by Mr. Obama that would have un­nec­es­sar­ily threat­ened over one-third of the na­tion’s coalmin­ing jobs. De­spite the In­te­rior De­part­ment’s own re­ports show­ing vir­tu­ally all coal mines have no off­site im­pacts and lands are be­ing re­stored suc­cess­fully un­der ex­ist­ing fed­eral and state reg­u­la­tions, Mr. Obama tried to in­sti­tute a so-called “stream pro­tec­tion rule,” which would have forced the re­vi­sion of more than 400 reg­u­la­tions.

Con­trary to what is be­ing re­ported, Mr. Trump and Congress are quickly work­ing to achieve one of their most im­por­tant goals: lim­it­ing the size and power of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment over peo­ple’s lives. And in do­ing so, they are keep­ing the com­mit­ment they made when they took the oath of of­fice, which re­quires they up­hold and de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States.

Let’s hope the progress con­tin­ues.

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