Protection of consumers is taking a back seat as the Trump administration moves to unwind and undercut as many existing or proposed regulations that protect individuals from financial institutions, corporations and other entities.

For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stopped enforcement actions; the Labor Department has delayed implementation of rules that affect the behavior of financial advisors as relates to their clients and the Education Department has withdrawn an effort to protect student borrowers. [WP, 3/11/18]

“The State Department has ended an Obama-era program to grant visas
to foreign entrepreneurs who want to start companies in the United States. It is more aggressively scrutinizing visas to skilled workers from other countries. And it is contemplating ending a provision that allows spouses of those skilled workers to be employed in the U.S. The administration and its backers contend it’s trying to fix flaws in the existing, employer-centric skilled immigration system while advocating for a complete overhaul of America’s immigration system.'” [AP, 4/2/18]

As Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, FEMA made a fateful decision. It kept its top disaster recovery expert in Houston, working on Hurricane Harvey, even though Texas was far more stable. This was the start of a pattern. A Politico investigation shows that the Trump administration – and the President himself – was slower to ramp up recovery efforts for Puerto Rico than Texas, even though the damage in Puerto Rico exceeded that in Houston. FEMA then moved much more slowly to approve individual assistance and permanent aid. [Politico, 3/27/18]

The Commerce Department announced Monday, March 26th that the 2020 census respondents will be asked whether they are U.S. citizens. Civil rights groups say the move will undermine the survey’s accuracy and participation rates. Civil-rights groups and minority advocates said the question will dissuade immigrants, particularly noncitizens, from answering the census altogether, resulting in undercounts. The census aims to count every “person” for the purpose of determining the number of congressional seats to which the state is entitled and for the distribution of federal funds for such things as Medicaid and highway funds.

A variety of states and organizations are lining up to sue. [Time, 3/27/18]

The federal government censored, withheld or said it couldn’t find records sought by citizens, journalists and others more often last year than at any point in the past decade. The calculation covers 8 months under President Trump, the first hints about how his administration complies with the Freedom of Information Act. [AP – Playbook, 3/13/18]

President Trump has issued an order which will ban transgender troops from serving in the U.S. military except under “limited circumstances.” Trump had announced in July 2017 that the U.S. would “not accept or allow…transgender individuals to serve in any capacity”. The statement was designed to reverse an Obama administration plan to allow transgender individuals to serve openly.

Current transgender service members who have not yet undergone reassignment surgery are allowed to remain in the military, as long as they have been medically stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex before joining the military and are able to deploy across the globe.

It also allows currently serving service members to remain if they were diagnosed with gender dysphoria since the Obama administration’s policy took effect and prior to the start of the new Trump policy. Those service members are allowed to serve in their preferred gender and receive medical treatment for gender dysphoria. [WP, 3/24/18]

This action is quite different from a recent federal appeals court ruling that held that discrimination on the basis of transgender status was inherently sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Trump’s position is consistent with the position taken by Attorney General Sessions in a memorandum to Justice Department lawyers. He said that “Title VII prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se including transgender status.” [NYT, 3/25/18]

Trump’s EPA rejected Obama era greenhouse gas standards for 2022-2025 models and light trucks. This is a victory for car manufacturers. [Public Policy Law 360, 4/2/18]

The White House is considering limits on visas to Chinese students as part of a broad package of measures targeting Beijing. Foreign students paying U.S. tuition have made schools one of America’s most successful export industries. Foreign students attending U.S. schools accounted for $39.4 billion in U.S. exports. Chinese students account for approximately one-third of 1.1 million international students enrolled in U.S. schools in the 2016-2017 academic year. [WSJ, 3/16/18]

Acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Chief, Mick Mulvaney who is also the Director of OMB, is recommending changes (which will require congressional action) to rein in the CFPB.

Among the changes proposed:

  • The head of CFPB would report directly to the President instead of being independent as he is now.
  • New rules proposed by the CFPB would need congressional approval.
  • The CFPB funding instead of coming from the Federal Reserve as it does now would be handled by Congress.

[WSJ, 4/3/18]

Disassembling efforts that did not work as planned or were modified

The White House request for budget cuts ran into a Congress that was having none of it. Here is how the White House proposal was dealt with in the Omnibus bill passed by Congress and signed by the President.

  White House Requests Omnibus
Transportation, HUD -16.9% +21.9%
Energy and Water – 9.3% +14.3%
Homeland Security +3.8% +12.5%
Military Con &VA +8.0% +12.0%
Agriculture -24.7% +10.1%
Labor, HHS, Education -15.2% +10.0%
Financial Services +6.6% +9.9%
Defense +5.4% +9.4%
Interior&Environment -15.7% +9.2%
Legislative Branch -13.1% +9.5%
Com, Justice, Science -13.1% +5.7%
State & Foreign Ops -23.7% +1.7%

The Trump administration has backed away from a proposed regulation that would have allowed restaurant owners and managers to pocket the tips of their workers. [NYT, 3/24/18]

An effort by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to spend more than $1 billion to promote choice-friendly policies and private school vouchers was rejected by Congress. Rather than cut the Department budget by $3.6 billion as Devos had proposed it increased the budget by $3.9 billion. [WP, 3/23/18]