Frustrated with his inability to spur Congress to act on much of his agenda, President Trump is increasingly using his executive powers in a risky bid to gain leverage with lawmakers on an array of unfulfilled campaign promises.
Following his announcement that he is cutting off health-care subsidies key to the Affordable Care Act, Trump voiced hope that the move would force Democrats to join him in his stymied effort to pass a health-care overhaul in the Republican-led Congress.
After proclaiming the end of a popular program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, Trump offered to continue it — but only if lawmakers move on several of his stalled priorities in return, including funding a U.S.-Mexico border wall that was central to his campaign.
And on Friday, Trump disavowed the international nuclear deal with Iran but held out the possibility of keeping the United States in the pact if Congress attaches new conditions to a deal that he continually derided as a candidate.
The strategy has been cheered by many of the president’s core supporters, who view it as Trump making good on his pledge to be a disruptive force in Washington while dismantling the legacy of former president Barack Obama.
President Trump signed an executive order on the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 12. With the order, he directed federal agencies to rewrite regulations on selling a certain type of health insurance across state lines. (The Washington Post)
“Any time he can be viewed as a strong, disruptive force, hitting D.C. with a wrecking ball, his core base of supporters love it,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican consultant close to the White House.
But such political hostage-taking carries considerable risk, particularly given the paralysis that has gripped Congress in the first nine months of the Trump presidency and the real possibility that the “deals” Trump is seeking won’t materialize. Hanging in the balance now are the ability of millions of Americans — including many of Trump’s working-class supporters — to afford health insurance, the fate of hundreds of thousands of “dreamers” who could face deportation, and the international standing of the United States.
“There’s nothing clever about creating a crisis and hoping Congress responds when the American public is in the crosshairs,” said Cecilia Muñoz, a longtime immigrant rights advocate who served as Obama’s White House domestic policy adviser.
Trump’s critics also accuse him of hypocrisy for employing executive orders and other actions at a time when his agenda is stalled in Congress. Trump and other Republicans excoriated Obama for similar tactics, calling him an “emperor” and a “monarch,” particularly during the latter part of his presidency, when he faced a hostile GOP Congress.
In Trump’s case, he is acting on his own even as his party controls the House and Senate. And Trump is now on pace to sign more executive orders than any president in the past 50 years — although some of those actions, particularly early in his term, had limited impact.
Trump’s use of executive power to upend the status quo has extended to other areas, including an attempt to renegotiate NAFTA, which was underscored by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the White House last week. Trump’s administration also announced a proposed rule that would repeal regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants.
Trump aides acknowledge that some of his recent actions are due to his frustration with Congress, which the president has made no effort to hide on Twitter and in public appearances. And they defend his frequent use of executive orders as necessary to undo actions by Obama they consider unconstitutional or otherwise…