Obama Attempts to Secure His Legacy with Last Minute Executive Actions

Erika Haas
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Posted: Nov 28, 2016 5:00 PM
Obama Attempts to Secure His Legacy with Last Minute Executive Actions

In a final attempt to secure his legacy, President Obama and his administration are rushing to crank out a series of executive actions before his term is up. The effort seems fruitless, as Donald Trump will likely invalidate most of the regulations when he assumes office. Despite this—and warnings from various leading Republicans—a number of federal agencies have pushed their proposals forward. 

According to Politico, up to 98 regulations were being reviewed as of November 18. 

“Regulations on commodities speculation, air pollution from the oil industry, doctors’ Medicare drug payments and high-skilled immigrant workers are among the rules moving through the pipeline…So are regulations tightening states’ oversight of online colleges and protecting funding for Planned Parenthood.

Also moving ahead are negotiations on an investment treaty with China and decisions by the Education Department on whether to offer debt relief to students at defunct for-profit colleges. 

The Department of Transportation may also go ahead with a ban on cellphone calls on commercial flights and a rule requiring that most freight trains have at least two crew members on duty.

[H]ealth officials are scrambling to finish rules designed to further entrench Obamacare…Just two days after voters swept Trump into power, the administration proposed rules for the 2018 version of the state insurance marketplaces.”

Expectedly, many congressional leaders are angered by these efforts and have advised the agencies to torch their proposals. 

On November 15, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the House committee chairmen sent out a letter to the agency heads cautioning them “against finalizing pending rules or regulations in the Administration’s last days.”

“Should you ignore this counsel, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions—and, if appropriate, overturns them,” the letter warned. 

As Politico pointed out, Republicans have a “powerful weapon” in their back pocket if the agencies ignore their warning: the 1996 Congressional Review Act. The Act allows Congress and the president to void any regulations they oppose—as long as the regulation was finalized after May 30—based on a majority vote. The agencies would then be unable to enact any rules that are “substantially the same” as the ones repealed.  

Currently, only one regulation can be repealed at a time. However, Republicans are trying to make it possible to repeal multiple regulations at once.

Either way, it appears Obama’s ‘legacy’ won’t survive a Trump presidency.