Did We Get Closer or Farther from True Constitutional Government during Trump's First Year?

Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, December 13, 2017 | Go to article overview

Did We Get Closer or Farther from True Constitutional Government during Trump's First Year?


More than a year ago, Americans elected a "unified" government -- meaning a Republican president and a Republican Congress -- creating the conditions for the revival of constitutional forms.

We had a disruptive president with a broad, populist agenda that requires legislation, and a focused legislature willing to work with an energetic executive to reassert government based on consent.

This unified Republican government would mean a competitive but healthy congressional-executive relationship that would serve to limit the modern state at home and abroad, restoring the institutional norms of small-r republican government.

It was a unique moment of great opportunity - the greatest opportunity since President Ronald Reagan to break the centralization of power in favor of constitutional rule.

So, what has happened?

The foremost concern of many voters was allayed when President Trump kept his campaign promise and nominated a strong defender of the Constitution to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Further judicial appointments are being made in the lower courts as well - though these are being slow-walked by the Senate. Evidence of other Trump policies abound. The U.S. has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and will do so with the Paris Climate Accord. Illegal entry is down due to stronger border enforcements. There has been regulatory pullback within the bloated bureaucracy. And the economy is now growing at 3 percent.

But the major accomplishments of this presidency have been done without the legislative branch. Trump has issued 51 executive orders and 39 presidential memorandums. (And just for the record, he's sent some 2,400 tweets.) During the same time, he's only signed 58 pieces of legislation. Take away the Congressional Review Acts (a special procedure that allows for the reversal of regulations), and there have only been 43 laws passed during this administration -- less than half the number of significant presidential actions.

The House of Representatives has mostly done its job. As of Dec. 7, it has passed 394 pieces of legislation, including the REINS Act, the Regulatory Responsibility Act, and the Financial Choice Act (which repeals the most egregious parts of Dodd Frank, including the CFPB). It has been active on immigration policy, passing Kate's Law (which punishes returning criminal aliens) and legislation cutting off funds for sanctuary cities, the Verify First Act, and an important anti-gang immigration bill targeting MS-13. It's passed legislation to restrict the ability of the EPA to promulgate rules, and the Midnight Rules Act (which would amend the CRA to allow Congress to disapprove regulations en banc). It's tackled healthcare, sending legislation repealing and replacing Obamacare to the Senate.

The House, which has almost completely lost control of its budget powers and instead come to focus on post-budgetary oversight and after-the-fact "regulatory relief" from the bureaucracy, has for the first time in more than a decade passed all of their appropriation bills, and done so on time. …

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