Four areas Republicans have moved to uproot Obama’s legacy

Four areas Republicans have moved to uproot Obama’s legacy
© Greg Nash

While President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' MORE’s tweets and controversies dominate the headlines, Republicans are pressing ahead on policy.

Trump's executive order on refugees and immigration, along with combative tweets and protests across the country, have used up media oxygen. Announcements on the Affordable Care Act, the Keystone XL and DAPL pipelines, and the decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership have drawn their fair share of coverage.

But some significant moves have received less attention. Here are four other areas where Trump or Republicans in Congress have moved to enact major change in the past week alone targeting elements of President Obama's legacy.

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1. Financial advice

On Friday, Trump signed an executive order putting an Obama-era proposal that aimed to protect consumers on ice.

The so-called fiduciary rule, announced by the Obama administration in April 2016, was intended to ensure financial advisors act in the interests of their clients, not themselves. For example, it sought to prohibit advisors from pushing their clients towards products that would pay the advisor a high commission for no good reason. Its scope was limited to retirement accounts and related products.

Wall Street and the financial industry have long been opposed to the rule, which had been set to go into effect in April. Its critics argue it would reduce consumer choice and deprive consumers from receiving the best financial advice.

The rule will now be reviewed by the Trump administration. No deadline has been given for the completion of that review.

  • Trump was right to suspend the rule because: “We are returning to the American people — low- and middle- income investors, and retirees — their control of their own retirement savings.” — Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), speaking alongside the president at the signing ceremony.
  • Trump was wrong to suspend the rule because: “Plain and simple: Donald Trump is ripping $17B a year away from families and putting it in the hands of Wall Street” — Tom Perez, Obama-era Labor secretary, who unveiled the regulation in April 2016. Perez is now a candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee.

2. Gun control

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On Thursday, the Republican-led House voted to expunge an Obama-era rule that would have limited the access to firearms for some mentally ill people.

The rule pertained to people who receive certain Social Security benefits but who nominate someone else to receive and manage those benefits because of their own mental impairment.

Under the Obama rule, the Social Security Administration would have forwarded the names of those people to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Since the FBI database is used in gun purchases, those people added to it would have had their ability to buy firearms circumscribed.

According to NPR, about 75,000 people would have been affected.

The House voted 235-180, overwhelmingly along party lines, to scrap the law.

Broader reaction was less predictable. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was on the same side as the National Rifle Association. The ACLU argued that the regulation “advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent.”

  • Democrats said: "The House charged ahead with an extreme, hastily written, one-sided measure that would make the American people less safe” — Rep. Elizabeth Esty (Conn.).

3. Environment

Republican lawmakers also took aim at an Obama rule that sought to bar mining companies from dumping their waste into rivers and waterways.

To its defenders, the law was important to ensure safe drinking water, ease health concerns and mitigate broader damage to the ecosystems in the vicinity of coal mines. To detractors, such as the National Mining Association, it was an overly burdensome regulation that would put at least one-third of all mining and mining-related jobs at risk.  

The House voted 228-194 to get rid of the law, and the following day the Senate concurred, 54-45.

  • Republicans were right to strike it down because: “The stream rule is to bad regulations what the Sistine Chapel is to Renaissance art.  It’s a pure expression of all that ordinary Americans loathe about rule by bureaucracy.” — “Count on Coal,” a website of the National Mining Association.”
  • Republicans were wrong to strike it down because: “Who pays for the consequences of mining? Does the company pay for it, or do the local communities pay for it with their health and well-being?” — Erin Savage, environmental activist, Appalachian Voices.

4. Unions

House Republicans last week introduced national “right to work” legislation in a bill sponsored by Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonValerie Plame: 'I'm alarmed' over escalation with Iran Paralysis of nations is empowering cities Bipartisan lawmakers condemn Iran, dispute State Department on number of protesters killed MORE (R-S.C.). Similar legislation has been pushed in previous years but the sponsors are more hopeful this time around.

“I’m very optimistic about getting this moved in this administration,” King told Bloomberg’s Josh Eidelson.

“The president believes in right to work,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at Friday’s press briefing, in response to a question about moves to make New Hampshire a right to work state. Spicer added that “obviously, the vice president has been a champion of this as well.”

The term “right to work” is itself controversial. It refers to whether or not workers whose employment conditions are covered by union agreements should have to pay dues to cover the cost of bargaining.

The unions say it is fundamentally unfair for people to reap the benefits of union membership without chipping in their fair share. Proponents of “right to work” say people should not be obligated to pay fees to an organization with whom they could have significant disagreements.

Obama was a frequent critic of the push for “right-to-work” laws. In 2012, he told a Washington D.C. conference: “When folks try and take collective bargaining rights away by passing so-called ‘right to work’ laws that might also be called right to work for less,’ laws — that’s not about economics, that’s about politics. “

  • Why “right-to-work” is good“[President Trump] wants to give workers and companies the flexibility to do what's in the best interest for job creators” — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.