President Donald Trump. Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing to finalize a host of high-profile rules in 2020, including policies that will impact everything from auto emissions to food stamp access.
With the November presidential election approaching, the administration is widely expected to make a push to wrap up pending regulations early in 2020 in an effort to bolster those rules against a possible Democratic administration that may seek to unravel Trump’s policies.
“There’s going to be a real rush this spring,” said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a limited-government advocacy group. Ebell led the Trump administration’s transition team at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following Trump’s 2016 election. “They want to get everything final and the litigation started before mid-May,” he added.
If Trump loses in the November contest, his opponents would likely try to halt regulations using legislative and legal tools. Congress can overturn recently finalized rules, and the executive branch can move to walk back rules that are mired in court challenges.
In the coming months, “there’s probably going to be a push [by the Trump administration] to try to finalize anything that’s already been proposed,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory expert at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.
Trump administration officials have been effective at overturning the work of their predecessors.
With the help of the GOP-led Congress, the administration effectively torpedoed a slew of Obama-era regulations. After Trump’s inauguration, GOP lawmakers used the Congressional Review Act to overturn 16 Obama rules, according to the Center for Progressive Reform. That law had been used only once before that, when the George W. Bush administration overturned a Clinton-era rule dealing with workplace safety.
Regulatory experts predict the administration is working hard behind the scenes to ensure that their own policies aren’t as vulnerable. Trump’s roadmap was laid out in a recent regulatory timeline, which estimates the dates for finalizing federal agencies’ rules.
Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy Trump regulations expected in 2020:
Food stamp restrictions
The Trump administration came under fire from critics in December when it finalized one of three rules expected to dramatically reduce access to food stamps nationwide.
The administration is also expected to finalize the elimination of another policy that allows people to automatically qualify for food stamps if they receive certain other benefits. A third food stamp proposal would change how utility costs factor into benefit calculations.
Combined, the administration’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rules could lead to 3.7 million fewer people receiving food stamp benefits nationwide, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute.
The two additional policies are expected to be finalized in May, according to the administration’s timeline.
Climate rule rollback
The administration is expected to soon finalize its overhaul of Obama-era greenhouse gas limits and fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks. Trump officials have called the Obama policy too costly, but the revisions have drawn a backlash from environmentalists and other critics.
The final regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department are expected in April, according to the administration’s timeline. The administration proposed freezing fuel economy standards through 2026 — reversing a major Obama climate rule that would have forced automakers to dramatically boost their fleets’ fuel economy by 2025.
Trump’s final rules are expected to modestly boost fuel efficiency in comparison with the proposal, Reuters reported, but the requirements are still expected to be far weaker than the Obama rules.
Early in 2020, the Trump administration is planning to finalize its rollback of an Obama-era rule barring health care providers from discriminating against transgender people.
The Obama administration rule barred discrimination based on “gender identity,” but the Trump administration’s draft replacement rule asserts that federal laws banning sex discrimination in health care don’t apply to people’s “gender identity,” NBC reported.
Critics of the draft policy from the Department of Health and Human Services warn that it will hinder access to medical care for transgender people. The Obama rule bans health insurers from restricting services that help people transition from one gender to another, according to The New York Times.
Campus sexual assault
A contentious rule dealing with campus sexual assault is also expected to be issued soon.
The final rule from the Education Department is expected to give new rights to students accused of sexual assault, The Washington Post reported in November. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said when she issued the proposal, “Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”
Opponents of the policy have warned that it’ll prevent reporting of sexual assault and harassment and won’t do enough to protect women on campuses. The final rule was slated for release in November 2019, according to the regulatory calendar, but has been delayed.
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