Washington Week

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8 Missed Stories from President Trump's First 100 Days

By Joan E. Greve

President Trump’s first 100 days in office are coming to a close, and as the president himself admitted on Thursday, “I thought it would be easier." Trump’s early presidency has been filled with headline-grabbing moments on both the foreign and domestic fronts. Amid the flurry of news items, important developments flew below the radar. Here are just eight of stories you might have missed during the first 100 days of the Trump presidency:

 

Medicaid expansion

After House Republicans failed to pass an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act last month, more states are considering Medicaid expansion. The ACA allows states to widen their eligibility requirements for receiving Medicaid, but 19 states have still elected not to do so. Lawmakers in a few of those states are now pushing for expansion, including Kansas, where the state legislature approved the measure but was not able to later overcome a veto from their Republican governor. 

 

Environmental de-regulation

President Trump’s executive order demanding that the EPA reconsider the Obama-era Clean Power Plan briefly captured front pages last month, but his other attempts to roll back environmental regulations have gone less noticed. For example, the president last week instructed the Interior Department to alleviate restrictions on offshore drilling that were put in place after the disastrous 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

 

Opioid epidemic

Many of the states bearing the brunt of the opioid epidemic--including Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky--were carried by Trump in the election, but not much has yet been done to alleviate the suffering of addicts and their families. In fact, the proposed American Health Care Act that fail to pass the House last month would have taken away the addiction treatment currently covering 1.3 million Americans. The president announced a commission on the epidemic, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in late March, but the commission’s sympathetic approach to drug addiction already stands in stark contrast to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ promise to “hammer” drug deals as part of his tough on crime initiative. The impasse could only further entrench an epidemic that took over 50,000 lives in 2015.


Planned Parenthood funding withheld

With no fanfare or cameras present, President Trump this month signed a bill that would allow states to withhold family planning grants from organizations that provide abortion services. The measure could cost Planned Parenthood and similar groups tens of millions of dollars a year. The bill, which overturns a rule issued late in Barack Obama’s presidency that barred states from withholding the funds, barely passed Congress. The Senate voted 50-50 on the measure, requiring Vice President Mike Pence, who signed anti-abortion legislation as governor of Indiana, to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of overturning the rule.

 

State-run retirement savings accounts

The same day that President Trump signed the family planning bill, he also overturned another piece of Obama-era regulation regarding retirement savings accounts. Several states and major cities have considered establishing government-run retirement accounts for workers who do not have access to them through their employers. In support of these proposals, the Department of Labor finalized a rule in late 2016 to exempt such programs from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which strictly regulates the retirement and pension plans that companies can offer. Congress narrowly voted to overturn the rule, as many Republican lawmaker and business groups argued that the government should not be involved in creating retirement plans. But supporters of the proposals respond that such accounts would offer reassurance to the 55 million Americans whose employers do not offer access to a retirement plan or pension.

 

Proposed budget cuts

The Trump administration’s budget proposal, which they released last month, has a long way to go before it reaches final approval. Many of the suggested budget cuts will likely be pared down by the Congress as they work through their own negotiations, but the administration’s initial proposal still allows Americans a window into what President Trump and his team consider to be disposable. And surprisingly, many of the programs that they think America can do without are hugely beneficial to his voters, including the HOME Investment Partnerships Program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and job training programs through the Appalachian Regional Commission. Lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have pledged to protect specific programs, but time will tell whether the risk to such programs jeopardizes the president’s approval among his supporters.

Justice Department’s reviews of police agreements

Attorney General Jeff Sessions alarmed some civil rights groups earlier this month when he expressed his desire to delay an agreement reached with the city of Baltimore to curb racial profiling within their police department. Both Baltimore and Chicago, which reached a similar agreement with the DOJ, said that they would continue with their reform plans, but Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, remained concerned about the news. “This is supposed to be Department of Justice, not the Department of Law and Order,” Morial said. “The Justice Department of course is involved in crime reduction, but its fundamental mission is to protect the constitutional rights of the people of the United States.” Sessions can expect continued run-ins with civil rights groups as he attempts to refocus the department of achieving greater “law and order,” as President Trump often said on the campaign trail.

 

State governments’ anti-protest laws

Following major demonstrations against not just the president, but also police violence and the Dakota Access Pipeline, some state legislatures are responding with stiffer penalties for protesters. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) signed four laws in February that expanded the state’s definition of trespassing and allowed police officers to write citations and issue fines to those involved in a “riot.” Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana have followed suit with their proposals for greater repercussions against those who block highways, a common tactic in Black Lives Matter protests. In total, 18 states are currently considering such measures to disincentivize political assemblies. The ACLU has condemned the suggested legislation, with senior attorney Lee Rowland saying, “To see legislators in these states make it a priority not to listen to the voices of their constituents, but to silence them, is deeply troubling and fundamentally un-American.”