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Trump’s Fevered Executive Orders Leave Capitol Hill in Chaos

Vanity Fair

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Donald Trump has approached the presidency with the same impulsivity that defined his tumultuous campaign, using his first five days in the Oval Office to issue a slew of executive actions at a breakneck pace that has left government agencies in the dark, Republican leaders scrambling to keep up, and policy experts to wonder if some of Trump’s actions are even legal.

While President Barack Obama’s administration adopted a meticulous, weeks-long approach to drafting and issuing executive orders—thoroughly vetting any actions with affected agencies, lawmakers, and legal experts—the nascent Trump administration has been churning out initiatives at full tilt and, largely, without proper review. “He was determined to show people that he’s getting to work from Day One,” one person familiar with Trump’s strategy told Politico, adding that he was intent on signaling to his supporters—and critics—that Obama’s time in office was unequivocally over. But Trump’s aggressive pace in his first days as president could backfire. “If you don’t run these kinds of initiatives through the affected agencies, you’re going to get something wrong,” David Vladeck, a law professor at Georgetown University and a former official at the Federal Trade Commission, told Politico. “A government by edict is not a sustainable idea.”

It’s an approach that worked on the campaign trail, but has unleashed chaos and uncertainty on Capitol Hill, where legislators are left struggling to work out the details. Trump’s executive order on border security, for instance, set in motion the construction of U.S.-Mexico border wall that could cost well more than $14 billion. While Trump is expected to use federal funds under the expanded authority of a pre-existing 2006 law to build the barrier, it is still unclear where the money will come from. “You can’t shuffle money around even within a department. You have to go back to Congress,” Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy for the Bipartisan Policy Center, explained to Politico. Similarly, Trump signed a sweeping—albeit vague—executive order that gives federal agencies the freedom to “ease the burden of Obamacare,” to the “maximum extent permitted by law,” within hours of being sworn in. But only a handful of people at the Department of Health and Human Services were aware of the order before it was signed, and key lawmakers on Capitol Hill were reportedly left in the dark. G.O.P. party leaders still haven’t coalesced around the best way to dismantle President Obama’s sprawling health-care legislation. “I don’t think you will see a plan,” Ohio congressman Patrick Tiberi, who serves as chairman of a key subcommittee on health care, told The Washington Post. “I think you will see components of a plan that are part of different pieces of legislation that will make up what will ultimately be the plan.”

KEYWORDS: 115TH CONGRESS, PAT TIBERI, PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, THERESA BROWN