The Plight Of The Obama Legacy
Published January 21st, 2017

The Plight Of The Obama LegacyDonald Trump seems disgruntled with most of the Obama's policies, especially on environmental matters. Obama had set himself as the man to watch in fighting against global climatic change. As the fight's forerunner, he passed regulations for lowering the emission of pollutant gasses from automobiles and industries. The former president was on the front line in enforcing the Paris Accord, where 195 countries agreed to implement measures that would cut down the production of harmful gasses like Carbon Dioxide. He also promoted renewable energy technologies and spearheaded public land protection measures. Trump vows to clean up the system of governance and to speed up processes. He says that he will not tolerate anyone who does not do the right thing.

Trump has made it clear that he does not approve of free markets like the Republicans do. He is particularly skeptical about multi-lateral trade deals where American firms are free to outsource the production of their goods. In his inauguration ceremony speech, Trump made it clear that he would secure the American borders, and America would only consume American products made in America by Americans. He said that he would engage in international trade only if the United States were to benefit.

Cleaning up the System

Among the policies that Trump is likely to abolish instantly is the $10.10 minimum wage per hour for federal contractors, and the executive order demanding government procurement officers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. He will also scrap Obama's DACA policy which aims at granting legal residency rights to scores of illegal immigrants who migrated to the country in their childhood.

Asked if he was planning to wreck the Obama's legacy, in a recent Fox News interview, Trump said he had no such intentions. However, he stated that he was very open-minded about climate change, adding that he believed that nobody understands the underlying issues. Before and during the 2016 presidential campaigns, President Trump apparently demonized climate science. He even asserted that the notion that human activity influences climate is a Chinese hoax aimed at promoting China's business agenda.

Trump's Controversial Appointments

Trump's selection of some leaders of agencies seems like a calculated move to frustrate the Obama's legacy. He appointed Tom Price as head of the Department of Health and Human Services. Tom Price is a top critic of the Obamacare, a health care law which was devised by the Obama administration. President Trump also chose Scott Pruit, the Oklahoma Attorney General to administrate over the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Scott had earlier sued the body over the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which had been announced by President Obama in August 2015. Trump then picked Rex Tillerson, the Exxon Mobil CEO, as Secretary of State. Rex Tillerson promises to collapse one of the Obama's major policies on the environment within his first 100 days in the office.

Trump insists that he made all his appointments with the best interest of the American citizen. He said that the new heads would streamline the interaction between the government and businesses. Citing the EPA's appointment, Trump expressed his frustration in the amount of time that the organization takes to approve applications from entrepreneurs looking to start industries. He said that some wait for up to 15 years only for the body to eventually reject. According to Trump, this was making the United States unattractive to investors.

Extensive Judicial Activity Expected

With the United States being a well-established democracy, reverting some of the Obama administration's policies will not be easy. Many environmental organizations are preparing to oppose any anti-climate action that Trump's government could raise. Several attorneys general from various states vow to sue the Federal Government if it attempts to undermine environmental and climate change policies.

It looks like it will be the court to decide the fate of some of the Obama policies that Trump's administration opposes. We cannot predict what the rulings will be at this moment as the President of the US will nominate a new Supreme Court Justice. He will also make at least 100 appointments to fill judicial vacancies all over the country.

Legal experts feel that dismantling the Clean Power Plan will not be a walk in the park for Donald Trump. The CPP is already at the center of an aggressive litigation process at the United States Court of Appeals for DC Circuit. 24 states and industrial groups argue that EPA overstepped its mandate under the Clean Air Act. Since the hearing in September 2016, the court has not been able to make a ruling. If Donald Trump's administration scraps or alters the CPP, the country can only expect more drama in the courts.

One option for EPA under Trump would be to request the DC Circuit for a Voluntary Remand which would pause the case as the organization reviews the grievances. If the DC Circuit agrees, EPA could buy time in the pretense of assessing the matter and in turn stall the implementation of the CPP regulations. However, this will raise an uproar from various state attorneys general who wrote to Donald Trump last December warning him against taking this channel.

Lawsuits will still arise if the government waits for a ruling and later disbands the CPP. This is because the Clean Air Act obligates EPA to curtail the emission of air pollutants. Therefore, such actions from EPA will mean that the organization will be in contradiction with itself. EPA had presented a report to the Supreme Court in 2009 supporting the claims that carbon dioxide and some other five emissions were the primary cause of global warming. Hence, it will not make sense for EPA to withdraw the statement.

Whether or not Donald Trump intends to undermine the Obama legacy, the nature of each policy will determine if he can freely reverse it. He will require careful litigation to succeed. Below is a highlight of the categories of policies and what the administration will need to change or abolish any of them.

Executive Orders

These are declarations made by the president. They govern agencies of the executive such as the Treasury, Defense, and Labor. The president will reverse this kind of policies at will.

Discretionary Agency Directives

These rules result from the interpretation of the federal law by the lawyers of the white house. They operate when they are in force, but they are not effective on the law. Trump will also be at liberty to overturn them.

Agency Rules

These regulations have the full force of the law. They are passed by federal agencies under the authority of the Congress. Putting them in place is a complicated process, and reversing them requires the same amount of effort. The administration will have to justify its reason for making any changes to such policies.

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