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Despite Republican control, Trump relies on executive orders to push his agenda

The tax reform law stands as President Trump's only major legislative accomplishment during his first year in office. Meanwhile, he has been creating executive orders to deliver on campaign promises and to enact his political priorities, signing 55 of them in 2017. Alexis Simendinger, national political correspondent for The Hill, joins Hari Sreenivasan.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The tax reform law stands as President Trump's only major legislative accomplishment during his first year in office. But he has been using executive orders to deliver on campaign promises and enact his political priorities. Mr. Trump signed 55 of them in 2017 making changes to the Affordable Care Act, enhancing border security, sanctioning North Korea, just to name a few. As a candidate Trump accused President Obama of relying on executive orders quote, "because he couldn't get anybody to agree with him." Now the White House is bragging about the volume of executive orders with President Trump Signature. For some perspective I'm joined by Alexis Simendinger national political correspondent for The Hill. Thanks for joining us so let's put this in perspective. Is it about the volume of executive orders or the substance of what happens in them?

  • ALEXIS SIMENDINGER:

    Oh definitely the substance. But politically speaking what we're watching is a president who came from the business community came into the White House began to realize that legislative action was much slower and more difficult than he imagined. But like his predecessors he also came in with a whole folder full of executive actions that he wanted to begin with to set the tone for his his supporters and those who elected him to know that things were changing after President Obama.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And how much of this is kind of the the pension portion of this versus the eraser portion of this, undoing the Obama administration's executive orders in some cases is policy in and of itself?

  • ALEXIS SIMENDINGER:

    Absolutely. And you know one of the things that President Trump has discovered is that while having Republicans in the majority in the House and the Senate may not have been easy for him to deal with legislation, they were very eager to work with him under the law to try to help him with his deregulatory effort or his executive actions. And so we've seen them help him under the law a law called the Congressional Review Act where they helped him sweep away President Obama's, some of his regulations. In fact President Trump used that law more aggressively than we have seen since it was signed in 1996. And he was able to rescind 15 actions that President Obama had taken in the regulatory front. And the substance of what President Trump is trying to do either through executive action or his deregulatory efforts have shown results in ways that have really caught the public's attention whether it's what he's doing at the Environmental Protection Agency for instance or whether he's doing something with the national monuments, the American public has noticed that things have changed since President Obama left.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And this is the kind of structural strength and weakness of the executive order versus legislative action – If you use it it can be done just as quickly.

  • ALEXIS SIMENDINGER:

    Indeed. And that's why presidents often talk about their legacy being built legislatively not through executive action. It's different if you're talking about a wartime president like President Bush whom I covered. But in President Trump's case he understands that. And in fact he said he was going to go to school on how President Obama had used executive action so assertively and he's trying to showcase to his supporters that every single day that he's president as the chief executive he is taking action to make good on promises he made. But as you point out it only lives as long as he's president of the United States. And the minute we have another president we watch them begin to rethink and rewind what their predecessors have done.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Alexis Simendinger national political correspondent the Hill thanks so much.

  • ALEXIS SIMENDINGER:

    Thank you very much Hari.

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