Overnight Regulation: Groups brace for Trump's religious liberty order | Greens sue over offshore drilling

Overnight Regulation: Groups brace for Trump's religious liberty order | Greens sue over offshore drilling
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Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Wednesday evening here in Washington where momentum is growing for the GOP's ObamaCare repeal bill. Read about it here.




Trump's religious liberty order: Civil rights groups are bracing for President Trump to sign an executive order on religious liberty that they fear will give individuals and organizations a sweeping license to discriminate against women and LGBT Americans. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Human Rights Campaign are already on the attack.

Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, told reporters Wednesday that the group is prepared to file a lawsuit immediately, should Trump sign the order.

"Obviously we need to see what it says and see what it does, but if it resembles the leaked executive order and is going to harm LGBT individuals and women and religious minorities, we will absolutely be filing suit," she said. 


Trump has reportedly invited conservative leaders to the White House on Thursday for National Prayer Day, where he will sign the order. 

A draft copy of the order leaked to The Nation in February reportedly gave individuals and businesses the ability to claim broad religious objections to same-sex marriage, abortion, premarital sex and trans identity.

A senior administration official, however, cautioned to Politico this week that the language of the order had not yet been finalized by White House lawyers.  

Still, reports that Trump is planning to sign a religious liberty order at all has LGBT, women's and civil rights advocates alarmed. 

"If this executive order is anything like the one that was leaked in February, it would create an unprecedented license to discriminate with taxpayers' funds, undermine women's health care and elevate one narrow set of religious beliefs over all others," Sarah Warbelow, HRC's legal director, said.

"It would promote and encourage discrimination by government contractors' employees against people who are LGBTQ as well as open the door to a wide range of discrimination against women, un-married couples, single parents and religious minorities."

The HRC said it's also looking at "multiple opportunities" to challenge the order in court.

"I don't believe you need to have an actual injury to take place because this is so clearly a violation of the Constitution," Warbelow said. "As it stands, it is facially discriminatory and the likelihood of harm is fairly significant in many areas." 

Warbelow fears the order will allow groups that receive federal funding like foster care, homeless shelters and hospice programs to discriminate against LGBT Americans. 

And because the draft order broadly defined a religious organization to include any closely held corporation, Amiri said it gives any business or university that provides coverage under the Affordable Care Act the blanket ability to discriminate against women in providing contraceptives. 

The National Center for Transgender Equality urged its members Wednesday to call or email the White House and tell the president not to sign "a free pass for discrimination."   

"We've got to stop this. We pushed back hard when rumors of a pro-discrimination order surfaced in February, and we shut it down," the group said in a call to action.

"But opponents of equality have been lobbying for it ever since. Now we've got to push back even harder."

The hashtag #LicenseToDiscriminate was trending on Twitter Wednesday afternoon as groups, activists and even politicians rallied in front of the White House to voice their opposition to the order.  

In a statement Wednesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said protecting religious freedom does not require the government to condone and encourage discrimination.

"It has long been established that our Constitution protects the free exercise of religion, but those protections do not create the right to cause harm to others," he said. 

"The protections for religious freedom are a shield to defend the practice of religion, not a sword for one person to force his or her religious beliefs on others."

Find the story here


Greens sue over offshore drilling: Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration over part of the president's executive order to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.

The Hill's Timothy Cama has the story:

The coalition, led by environmental law firm Earthjustice, says President Trump cannot roll back drilling prohibitions that former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhy payroll tax cut opponents may want to reconsider Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report Graham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' MORE instituted in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans because they're permanent.

The legal theory has never been tested in court before as no one has sued a previous administration for similar actions.

"We believe that Trump's executive order asserts authority that Congress did not give him," said Jason Rylander, an attorney with Defenders of Wildlife.

"No president before has every attempted to withdraw waters that have been reserved under that provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. We don't believe that authority exists, and we believe it's a bad idea," he said.

The lawsuit is the first legal action to be taken against Trump's order signed less than a week ago.

The order takes numerous shots at Obama's offshore drilling policies. It begins a formal review of his decisions to prohibit new drilling rights sales in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as his safety regulations, and could lead to new drilling in those areas.

Greens oppose the order in its entirety. They want either strict limitations or a complete end to offshore drilling due to its impacts on the environment and climate.

But the Wednesday lawsuit specifically pertains to a provision in the order rescinding Obama's withdrawals of certain areas for offshore drilling.

Click here for more.



The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a business meeting to consider the Rapid DNA Act, a bill that would allow the FBI to use new testing tools. 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security will hold a hearing to look at the current state of airline travel. Expect talk about the recent incident where a passenger was dragged off a United flight.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules will hold a hearing that looks at churches' right to free speech. 



Keep an eye on these rules in Thursday's edition of the Federal Register:

--The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will keep in place protections for some species of spiders.

The agency is rejecting a petition to remove the Bone Cave harvestman, which is found in Texas, from the list of endangered or threatened species.

The finding goes into effect immediately.

--The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will consider exempting dozens of truck drivers with poor sight in one eye from vision requirements that would otherwise prohibit them from operating commercial motor vehicles between states.

These 36 truck drivers claim they have good enough vision in the other eye that they can safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.

The FMCSA will also consider exempting another two truck drivers who have implantable defibrillators from rules that would otherwise prevent them from getting behind the wheel.

The public has 30 days to comment.

The FMCSA, meanwhile, will exempt nine truck drivers who suffer from hearing loss from rules that would otherwise prevent them from driving between states.

The agency will also exempt 46 truck drivers with insulin-treated diabetes mellitus.



Giffords to gun control advocates: 'Fight, fight, fight'

Puerto Rico requests form of bankruptcy protection

Lawmakers urge Sessions to expedite review of cases involving seized funds

Lawmakers grill IRS, Education officials over data breach

Chaffetz, Cummings demand TSA head comply with subpoeana

Dem: GOP's net neutrality rollback aims to 'choke off' free speech

Zinke to tour Utah monument amid Trump review

House panel to vote on GOP Dodd-Frank rewrite

Ethanol fight complicates push to repeal Obama drilling rule

Lawmakers push FDA to allow over-the-counter hearing aids

Fed holds interest rates steady

Thai media demand government withdraw media regulation bill (ABC News)

Is he for or against regulation? Trump swings in 1 day (Associated Press)



5: Proposed rules

4: Final rules

(Source: Thursday's Federal Register)



"Now is the time to come together. Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight," former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) said Wednesday in an impassioned speech outside the Capitol to gun control advocates. Read more here.