Commentary: While Donald Trump relaxed at Mar-a-Lago on taxpayers’ dime, the Trump administration worked —often behind closed doors — to advance his dangerous agenda. Trump’s team dismantled several crucial Obama-era regulations, reversed important environmental protections, and so much more. Here’s what you may have missed over the past two weeks:
1. The Justice Department pushed for a question on citizenship to be added to the 2020 census — part of Republicans’ continued campaign to undermine the census and the state and local funding it determines.
ProPublica: “‘People are not going to come out to be counted because they’re going to be fearful the information would be used for negative purposes,’ said Steve Jost, a former top bureau official during the 2010 census. ‘This line about enforcing voting rights is a new and scary twist.’He noted that since the first census in 1790, the goal has been to count everyone in the country, not just citizens.”
2. The Trump administration shuttered a federal advisory council on H.I.V. and AIDS by removing its remaining members.
Washington Post: “The Office of National AIDS Policy, established in 1993 during the Clinton administration, has not had a director since Donald Trump took office. ‘The tipping point for me was the president's approach to the Affordable Care Act,’ Schoettes said. ‘It is of great importance for people living with HIV like myself.’ The council's executive director, Kaye Hayes, confirmed in a statement that all remaining 10 council members had received letters Wednesday‘informing them that the administration was terminating their appointments.’”
3. The Trump administration has “pretty much emasculated” safety enforcement in nursing homes by scaling back fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury.
Washington Post: “The shift in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols was requested by the nursing home industry. … The new guidelines discourage regulators from levying fines in some situations, even when they have resulted in a resident’s death. The guidelines will also probably result in lower fines for many facilities. … ‘They’ve pretty much emasculated enforcement, which was already weak,’ said Toby Edelman, a senior attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy.”
4. Hours after signing the Trump tax plan, Trump told friends at his Mar-a-Lago club“you all just got a lot richer.”
CBS News: “President Trump kicked off his holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago Friday night at a dinner where he told friends, ‘You all just got a lot richer,’ referencing the sweeping tax overhaul he signed into law hours earlier. Mr. Trump directed those comments to friends dining nearby at the exclusive club -- including to two friends at a table near the president’s who described the remark to CBS News — as he began his final days of his first year in office in what has become known as the ‘Winter White House.’”
5. The Interior Department voided an Obama administration rule that would have set new environmental limitations on fracking on public lands.
Washington Post: “The regulation from the Bureau of Land Management, which had been opposed by the oil and gas industry and tied up in court, would have tightened standards for well construction and wastewater management, required the disclosure of the chemicals contained in fracking fluids, and probably driven up the cost for many fracking activities.”
6. Trump abandoned an infrastructure proposal to help fund a new Amtrak tunnel for the busiest transit hub in the country.
Crain’s Business: “President Donald Trump dropped his own New Year's ball—in the form of a wrecking ball—with a late Friday afternoon announcement that effectively wipes out plans for perhaps the nation's most crucial infrastructure project. The president officially scrapped his predecessor's proposal to have the federal government underwrite half the cost of a multi-billion-dollar Amtrak tunnel connecting New Jersey to Penn Station, the busiest transit hub in the U.S. The lone existing tunnel is rapidly deteriorating, threatening to sever Amtrak's popular Northeast Corridor and to divert tens of thousands of New Jerseyans from their daily Manhattan commutes via New Jersey Transit.”
7. Trump’s Interior Department gave the green light to a toxic sulfide mining operation that could endanger the nation’s most-visited wilderness area.
Washington Post: “The Trump administration moved Friday to renew leases for a copper and nickel mining operation on the border of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, reversing a decision made in the final weeks of Barack Obama’s tenure in office. The action, made public in an Interior Department legal decision, marks a win for the Chilean mining firm belonging to the family of billionaire Andrónico Luksic, who rents a home to Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, in Washington.”
8. Mick Mulvaney, who Trump named leader of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told agency staffers that he intends to hire a half dozen loyalists from the Trump administration, blatantly disregarding agency’s independence.
The Intercept: “Mick Mulvaney, whose ability to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is still an open legal question, told the agency Thursday afternoon that he plans to bring in six loyalists from the Trump administration, according to agency sources, as well as a review of a memo Mulvaney circulated. The new staff will include John Czwartacki, who does public relations for the Office of Management and Budget, which Mulvaney also leads. Czwartacki will now do the same job at the CFPB, which, by statute, is supposed to be an independent agency that was created in the aftermath of the 2007-08 financial crisis.”
9. The Trump administration is warning federal agencies to brace for upcoming budget cuts — worrying federal employees who fear they may lose their jobs as part of an effort to pay for the Trump tax plan.
Washington Post: “The White House is now warning agencies to brace for even deeper cuts in the 2019 budget it will announce early next year, part of an effort to lower the federal deficit to pay for the new tax law, according to officials briefed on the budgets for their agencies… Federal workers fret that their jobs could be zeroed out amid buyouts and early retirement offers that already have prompted hundreds of their colleagues to leave, according to officials briefed on the budgets for their agencies.”
10. On the Friday before New Year’s Eve, the Trump administration diluted two Obama-era equipment and safety rules that aimed to prevent another Deepwater Horizon spill.
New York Times: “The Trump administration is poised to roll back offshore drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people and caused the worst oil spill in American history.”