News Sips 3/16: Immigration Drama, A Reaganesque Budget, Irish in DC, and General Assembly Getting Down to the Wire
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the March 16, 2017 edition:
More Immigration Drama
On the eve of the President’s new immigration pause taking effect, a Federal judge in Hawaii enjoined its enforcement. The judge, who was appointed by Barack Obama, reasoned that Mr. Trump’s statements on the campaign trail created enough concern about the real purpose of the Executive Order to prevent it from being enforced. The pause, which stopped new immigrants from six nations in the Middle East and Africa, was tailored to the specifications of the Ninth Circuit after the same court rejected an earlier pause that was more expansive. The rationale behind the choice of countries subject to the pause was simple: they are countries that have shown that they are not able to adequately provide screening of persons leaving their country en route to the United States.
Critics of the President have noted that this would amount to a “Muslim Ban” which then-candidate Trump had floated early in the campaign in order to get to the bottom of what was going on with the American immigration system. However, when he took office, an immigration pause emerged as the most reasonable expression of a tailored solution to address potential radicals entering the country. The rollout of the original order was met with confusion and uproar by leftists and was enacted before the President had his entire cabinet in place. While the President had wanted to fight the restraining order of this first ban, his legal team simply decided to rewrite the original order in accord with the guidance given by the Ninth Circuit.
Hawaii, which is part of the Ninth Circuit (the most overturned appellate court in the nation and widely considered to be the farthest left-leaning), argued in its motion to enjoin the enforcement of the new order that it would be harmed by a pause in new immigrants. While the Court, at this stage of the proceedings, did not reach the merits of the case, it did make findings sufficient to assert that the President may not win at trial. The Administration will now have to go back before the Ninth Circuit in order to argue that the revised order meets the standards set out by the Ninth Circuit previously.
It’s important to note that the President’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Neil Gorsuch, will begin his Senate confirmation hearings on Monday. Unless something strange happens in those hearings, it is very likely that Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed by the Senate in April (even if it means scrapping the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees). By that point, the Ninth Circuit will likely have issued a ruling. If it’s unfavorable to the Administration, it is very likely that they will seek review by the Supreme Court (a decision they did not take last time because of the possibility of a 4-4 split on the Court). Multiple independent analyses show that the President’s immigration pause is, indeed, comporting with the letter of the law and the powers given to him by Congress. It remains to be seen if the President will be able to get the Courts to agree.
Trump’s Reaganesque Budget
The President’s proposed budget echoes 1981. From all indications, the President will be moving to dramatically reduce the size and scope of the Federal Government outside of the realm of defense and security spending. With proposals that slash the National Endowment for the Arts, the EPA, and foreign aid, the President is marching forward with a plan that will send big-government types into apoplexy but fulfill some of the dreams of small-government conservatives.
The President’s budget takes aim at some of the bloat in the Federal bureaucracy by targeting overreach in the Department of Education and the EPA. This, in concert with regulatory reforms, are designed to scale back the interference of the Federal Government in state issues. Of course, many states have ceded (or at least acquiesced) to Federal control of programs and initiatives in their states. Governors are likely to regard this budget as a significant reversal in the direction of interference in state affairs. However, for those states that have leaned on the Federal Government to take care of programs and problems so the state could spend elsewhere, they may need to rethink this reliance.
It’s important to remember that the President’s 60pish page budget blueprint is not an executive order and doesn’t carry the weight of law. Rather, it is a guide for Congress to allocate spending as it deems appropriate. While the President and his agencies have strong powers over regulation (and, in this case, deregulation), the money outlay and spending priorities from the White House are only a request, not the law. It remains to be seen how quickly Congressional Republicans wilt under the pressure of interest groups and rubber stamp spending increases despite the President’s request not to do so. Because, in the end, that’ll be what this comes down to: the lobbying class will rush to Capitol Hill and put out television ads and threaten Congressmen with losses in the midterm elections next year. Cynical? Sure. However, the appetite for controversy, given the whole host of issues that are going on in the President’s legislative agenda, will likely be sapped by the time a vote on a full budget comes around. Hoepfully Congress will prove this prediction wrong.
Washington Goes Irish
Today will be an Irish-themed day on the President’s schedule as he welcomes the Taoiseach of Ireland to the White House. This is part of a long-running tradition of the leader of Ireland joining the US President to express the strength of bilateral relations during the celebration of Ireland’s patronal feast day. While the current Taoiseach and the President of the United States may not see eye-to-eye on many issues, the fact remains that this is less about partisanism and more about the expression of the cultural closeness between America and the Emerald Isle (let’s just hope the tone stays light all day).
The President will host the Taoiseach in a bilateral meeting at the White House this morning for “business” (a bilateral meeting) and also for the St. Patrick’s Day reception this evening. The President will also attend the Friends of Ireland lunch at the US Capitol. He will cap off the day with remarks at the evening’s reception.
General Assembly Getting Down to the Wire
With only 26 days left in Session, the Maryland General Assembly is getting down to the wire with the people’s business in Annapolis. Governor Larry Hogan took questions from the press yesterday and gave an update on the current state of his legislative agenda. Given the fact that Democrats control an outsized percentage of the General Assembly, movement on issues like redistricting reform and ethics legislation have stalled. The rationale from Maryland Democrats is understandable, if partisan: don’t give Governor Hogan a legislative win and try at every turn to make him a one-term governor.
Hogan, who enjoys some of the best approval ratings of any governor in the United States, is facing a tough reelection in 2018. Regardless of good polling, Hogan will be facing a concerted effort of a determined Maryland Democratic Party to get him out of power. Aside from merely wanting to retake the Governor’s Mansion, there is the strong indication that Democrats want to be sure that a Democrat is able to spearhead redistricting efforts after the 2020 census. Given that Governor Hogan has made it a priority of his Administration to bring up reform of Maryland’s obvious gerrymandering, Democrats would prefer that Hogan not have a hand in unwinding decades of partisan boundary-drawing. For his part, the Governor has proposed a non-partisan commission that would be tasked with a fair redrawing of boundaries. Most estimates show, even being kind to Democrats, that at least three Congressional districts would become competitive races (as opposed to the lopsided Democrat-favored current maps).
In his update to the press, the Governor noted that he had proposed 34 common sense, bipartisan measures at the beginning of Session that were geared towards improving the lives of Marylanders. To the credit of Democrats in the General Assembly, consensus was reached on protecting sex-trafficking victims, helping clean water commerce and an education bill. While the Governor has proposed a paid sick-leave bill, the version currently going through the General Assembly would hurt hundreds of small businesses and the Governor expressed his plan to veto that legislation.
With regard to the State’s budget, Democrats in the General Assembly are proposing eliminating an entire class of Maryland State Troopers. This comes right on the heels of the Governor’s declaration of a State of Emergency as it relates to the heroin epidemic sweeping both the State and the rest of the Nation. While the “War on Drugs” narrative often gets worn thin, there do seem to be almost daily stories of Marylanders dying from opioid overdoses. Denying the Governor the resources that he will need to combat this epidemic is short-sighted and potentially could result in not having the appropriate amount of law enforcement to save lives.
The Governor also addressed recent partisan denials of some of his appointees to State agencies and boards. While Senate Democrats have maintained that they have confirmed a large number of the Governor’s appointments, the Governor expressed his concern about the length of time it was taking to get nominees up for a vote. Moreover, he expressed a deep disgust for the way in which male Senators had treated a female nominee before, ultimately, rejecting her nomination.
Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.