The first week of the Trump administration has been marked by a flurry of executive actions — and lots of bombast and argument with the press.
President Trump's executive actions — in the form of orders and memorandums, which differ slightly — aim to show that President Trump will deliver on the promises made by Candidate Trump. And the actions hit on many of the most contentious issues in American politics: Trump moved to repeal the Affordable Care Act, remove roadblocks from the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, impose a hiring freeze on federal employees, withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities. Along the way, Trump and his surrogates claimed to have drawn the largest-ever inauguration crowd (he didn't), said that 3 million to 5 million votes were illegally cast (no evidence of that), softened his stance toward the CIA and said that he would announce his pick for the Supreme Court next week. The Senate approved four of his nominees for high-level positions, and 10 others have finished their confirmation hearings and await votes. And it comes as congressional Republicans huddle to figure out a legislative way forward with the new president.
Here, we take a look at the biggest issues and where they stand, one week into the Trump presidency:
Affordable Care Act
Within hours of being inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, Trump signed an executive order that seeks to "ease the burdens" of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The order allows the head of the Department of Health and Human Services, or any other agency with authority under the law, to not enforce regulations that impose a financial burden on a state, company or individual. What are the consequences? It's not totally clear yet. The order is so broad that it's possible it could dismantle key parts of the ACA before a replacement plan is ready owing to a potential lack of enforcement of some of the tax provisions like the mandate, the requirement that if you don't have health insurance, you have to buy it. That's despite previous statements from Republican lawmakers that a replacement plan would immediately follow repeal. What happens next?
The action adds a lot of confusion to an already complicated system. Trump's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price, hasn't yet had his confirmation hearing or vote. He will be responsible for administering the program and exchanges run by the federal government for states that opted not to create their own systems. Price is an opponent of the ACA, and congressional Republicans are vowing to repeal the law. But they haven't yet settled on an alternative. Trump has also confused matters with a pledge to offer "insurance for everybody," though congressional Republicans say they assume he means "access" for everyone.
Immigration and a border wall
On Wednesday, Trump signed two executive orders related to immigration and border security, shortly after the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, Marine Gen. John Kelly, was sworn in. "Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders," Trump said. What are the consequences?
The move communicated that Trump planned to follow through with his oft-spoken-of plan to build a border wall, estimated to cost $15 billion or more. The fallout was immediate: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a planned visit to Trump in Washington next week.
What happens next? Trump and Congress need to figure out how to pay for it, for starters. Though Trump has repeatedly said he would make Mexico pay for the wall, on Wednesday he told ABC News that the U.S. will be "reimbursed at a later date" by Mexico for the costs of building the wall. Congressional Republicans vowed to come up with the funding during a policy retreat Thursday in Philadelphia, though they did not specify how. On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that one way the administration is considering paying for the wall is via a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico — a cost that would mean that U.S. consumers would, in fact, pay for the wall. Ironically, that was part of a congressional plan that Trump, less than two weeks ago, derided as "too complicated." Hours later, the White House walked it back, saying there are many funding options being considered.
On Monday, Trump told congressional leaders in a bipartisan, bicameral meeting at the White House that that he would have won the popular vote, were it not for 3 million to 5 million votes cast against him by "illegals." When asked about it at the Tuesday press briefing, Spicer affirmed that "the president does believe that."
It was revealed by the New York Times that Trump is partially basing his belief on a story he heard thirdhand from a professional golfer, born in Germany, who wasn't allowed to vote in Florida and claimed there were people in line behind him who looked like they shouldn't be allowed to vote. After NPR's Mara Liasson pressed Spicer at a White House briefing on why the president wouldn't call for an investigation into something that could be the biggest scandal in U.S. history, Trump tweeted, in fact, that he would. On Thursday, Spicer told reporters Trump will issue an executive action calling for a probe of voter fraud in the coming days. What are the consequences? Trump's insistence that massive voter fraud occurred would seem to set up a showdown between the White House and. .. the evidence. So far, no evidence of significant voter fraud has come to light. What happens next? At this point, it's unclear. The White House insists it will issue an executive action to launch an investigation, but it's uncertain what form a probe would take. Would it be run by the White House? Would the Justice Department take it up (even though the Justice Department is supposed to operate independently of the White House)? The U.S. has already conducted a voter fraud investigation, by the way, during the Bush administration — and found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, turning up only 120 people charged and 86 convicted.
The environment and infrastructure
On Tuesday, Trump signed five executive actions relating to the Keystone XL pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, using American materials when building pipelines, reducing regulations for domestic manufacturing, and "expediting environmental reviews and approval for high-priority infrastructure projects." What are the consequences? The pipelines had been stopped during the Obama administration. Trump's actions mean that the owner of the Keystone XL pipeline could apply again for a construction permit, and it did exactly that Thursday night. Trump also encouraged the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the review and approval process for the section of the Dakota Access Pipeline that hasn't been built. What happens next? The Dakota Access issue will probably head back to federal court: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said it will take legal action to fight Trump's decision, saying the pipeline "risks contaminating tribal and American water supplies while disregarding treaty rights." Demonstrators remain camped near the site where the Dakota Access Pipeline is slated to cross under the Missouri River.
Hiring freeze for federal workers
On Monday, Trump signed a presidential memorandum imposing a hiring freeze on federal workers, with exceptions for military positions and national security.
What are the consequences? The ramifications are immediate: The freeze is now in effect and is scheduled to last 90 days. It's expected that by then, the Office of Management and Budget will have a longer-term plan for shrinking the federal government. The impact, though, is far-reaching. The federal government employs some 2.8 million people, more than 80 percent of whom live outside Washington, D.C., Maryland or Virginia. What happens next? The next steps are for the exceptions to be hammered out; the memorandum states that "the head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities." That could give agency heads at least some flexibility to hire as needed. Other exceptions could also emerge. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, has 45,000 job openings, and Trump's nominee to lead the VA had said he needs to fill those openings to serve veterans. Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
(2017-01-27 05:00:00 UTC):
A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Veterans Administration, its former name as a non-Cabinet-level agency.